Christina Kruse: Base And Balance

German born multi-disciplinary artist Christina Kruse’s Bauhaus influenced solo exhibit closed last week at New York’s Helwaser Gallery. By integrating core elements of the Bauhaus movement, Kruse lays bare any pretense and strips away all sentiment leaving the observer with an inherent beauty in her rational approach to the subject matter. The sculptures on display offer a cohesive body of work melding wood, bronze, and brass sculptures informed by Schlemmer, referencing the lines of human bodies.

Presented in loose groupings, her sculptures punctuate the gallery against a backdrop of her renderings in pencil and chalk. These drawings—almost diagrammatic—serve to complement, rather than compete, with the architectural sculptures on display.

“The drawings to me represent the issues in each sculpture that I need to contain. Some of them are super colorful, for starters, and a little mad—everything flows, everything is all over the place. And those are the matters that needs to be contained and organized in order to create an upright, standing, solid structure. They’re basically the issues to fix.”

This cohesive body of work is a natural evolution of her photographic and collage work over the past two years. Kruse, by introducing another dimension to her oeuvre, whets her audience’s appetite for what this promising artist has to offer next.

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Allie Ayers On Sports Illustrated and How She Plans to Disrupt the Fashion Industry

From the pages of Sports Illustrated to disrupting the fashion industry with her size inclusive swimwear line Bissy Swim, Allie Ayers is forging her own path by creating a new paradigm of what it means to be a model in 2019. The self proclaimed weird kid from rural Oklahoma chatted about how the pursuit of her dreams landed her in The City of Angels, and how she stays grounded.

What were your aspirations growing up in a small town in Oklahoma?

As a kid I was constantly paying my brother in Spam—we were weird kids—to act in the plays I would put on in our front yard for the neighborhood. I also spent a lot of time drawing each outfit for my imaginary fashion shows. There was never any question what kind of person I would become. I knew I wanted to live a life bigger than I was going to get in a town of 1300 people, so one of my most prominent dreams was to move to New York City. I ended up in LA, but New York was an important stop along the way.

Was modeling a career you always wanted to pursue and how did you get into the industry?

I remember submitting my photos to a Teen Vogue modeling competition when I was around 13. Part of the prompt was to showcase several outfits we styled ourselves. In true early 2000s fashion, I know there were jeans worn under dresses, lots of layered tops, and a ton of awful prints. So, yes, I certainly wanted to model. I didn’t have my chance until 5 years later when my mother agent scouted me at a beauty pageant. I told her I would have to call her after basketball season and I did!

Tell us about your experience working with Sports Illustrated.

The Sports Illustrated team has been such a blessing in my life. Anyone who has modeled a while will have a slew of stories highlighting how negative the industry can be, and I certainly have my fair share. This group of people—mostly women—were so lovely through every step of the process. I think one of the most important things they do is to give the models so much control over their image. When you are on set shooting for a company you almost always have no say in how you appear (to an extent hard lines should be abided by). With Sports Illustrated I was able to have a say in the swimsuits I wore, and the team were open to any feedback I gave throughout the day. I say that’s so important because it reinforces the message they are sending about female empowerment that we, as women, have full control over our bodies and our image.

You’ve spoken about the challenges of being a mid-size model. What have you discovered about yourself through that experience?

The initial realization that I was in some vague category between standard size models and plus size models was frustrating because nobody knew what to do with me. I was sent to plus and straight size castings and didn’t fit either. The industry is starting to open up now, so it is getting easier. Now I’m so thankful for that time in my life because it heightened my awareness of the lack of representation in modeling for not only midi models but also different races, genders, and ages.

Talk to us about the genesis of Bissy Swim.

My baby! Bissy is the product of the frustration I had with the lack of diversity I was seeing in fashion advertising, the realization that the plus size community has such limited options and lack of quality within those options, and the love I’ve had for creating since I was a kid. I had been making suits by hand for a time when I found out I was going to be featured in Sports Illustrated. With that momentum, I launched Bissy.

You described Bissy Swim as a size-inclusive swimwear line. Talk to us about how your line differs from other brands.

I’m hoping to change the standard within the fashion industry through Bissy’s example. Yes, we cater to the plus community, but we take that farther. So many plus brands give women options that stack ruffles on patterns on layers of fabric, clearly with the intention to cover up. Quality-made pieces are also hard to find. I wanted to make sure women could come to my site and find sleek, classic options that are designed to flatter the curves they have, not to cover them up. By the way, my use of “flatter” doesn’t mean “make them look thinner”, it means “show off how how hot those curves are”! With my marketing, I also aim to disarm whatever it might be in someone that makes them feel like they need to hide their body. Another area we are super passionate about is the sustainability, and the ethics of our work. Our suits are made in the USA. I chose to do that, so I would be able to see for myself that we were hiring fair labor facilities. We’re also making changes regularly to reduce our waste. We are focused on creating pieces that will last our customers a long time by making quality swimsuits that will stay nice longer, but also by choosing designs that won’t be out next season or the next.

Where would you like to see the fashion industry headed in the next few years?

I’m so over fast fashion. These brands rip off quality designers to rapidly produce essentially disposable clothing. Almost always in these situations fair labor practices aren’t implemented either. It’s so negative for our environment, for employees, and for the fashion industry as a whole. I hope to see sustainable fashion made cool. I want to see people being celebrated for wearing the same pieces over and over, instead of it feeling like a no-no to post a photo of yourself in the same dress on Instagram twice.

With so much on your plate, how do you stay grounded?

I’m careful about who I surround myself with. I think it’s so important to keep a tight group of friends who truly align with the person you want to be. I’ve also learned to not only keep “yes men” around me. You’re not going to make the best decision every single time—we’re human. Keep people around who aren’t afraid to check you.

What projects are you working on that you can share with us?

I’m so excited to have taken on the wardrobe direction for the upcoming feature film Colonials. It will be my first time wearing this hat and I can’t wait to see it come to life.

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Model Elise Crombez On Her Next Chapter

I met Elise one dreary Friday afternoon in a cafe in Chinatown in Washington D.C. As I perched at a high top table I noticed her sitting at the table across from me. To an untrained eye she would present as just another pulchritudinous brunette, but as someone who has studied fashion and models for the better part of two decades, I immediately recognized her. I waited until she was preparing to leave before satiating my curiosity and confirming my suspicions. As beautiful in person as she is in print, the Meisel muse entertained me either out of politeness, curiosity, or a mixture of the two. Now residing in New York, what follows is a glimpse into the life of the woman behind the model.

As a model you are defined by your looks. How did you reconcile your image with Elise the person?

I was lucky to have a strong foundation of family and friends while working. Going home to Belgium on a regular basis helped me balance out the demands of my job. But in the end, it was a gradual process of getting used to my ‘natural’ looks again after working with such great hair and make-up teams. I’m just really lucky to be seen and loved for who I am, and that is all I strive for. From the beginning, I have always looked up to women who age truthfully, fearlessly, and thus gracefully.

In fashion you have very little autonomy. What was that experience like for you, how did you cope, and in retrospect what have you discovered about yourself through this experience?

I agree that we are being told where to go and what to wear, although the reality is that most models move abroad, learn a new language, and make a life for themselves at a very early age in a business full of sharks. When I started, there were no smartphones or Wi-Fi, so we had to be much more responsible and self-sufficient. Most models become businesswomen in their early twenties. So I can proudly say that modeling has made me more independent than I could have ever dreamed to be.

You previously expressed an interest in film. Is that something that still holds your interest?

I love artistic self-expression. Modeling fed my passion to a certain extent but I felt at home in the acting lessons in New York and Los Angeles. I joined the Conservatory of Dramatic Arts in Ghent, Belgium for a year before moving back to LA. This might seem strange to some, but exposing my vulnerability and truths creatively (through a character in a play, a movie, or my own writing), hoping to connect with the audience, is what I feel I’m meant to do.

What does success look like to you and do you think of yourself as successful?

I’m a Leo, so I’m very demanding of myself. Success felt like a threatening word for a long time because I feared it would change my beliefs and values. Today, I feel successful in the sense that I try to be a good person and have never compromised my core beliefs.

Do you feel you’ve achieved balance in your life?

I’m in this challenge right now. I find it very hard to sit still and be patient. Even though I sat in hair and make-up chairs for hours and had to wait for my turn at castings and fittings, I was still doing it for work. Work horses love to work. I’m trying my hardest to enjoy the free space I have without feeling guilty or forgetting I have sacrificed a lot when I left Belgium at 17.

If you think of your life in chapters what do you want to achieve next?

Creative risk-taking.

Where would you like to see your life in the future?

Healthy, honest, harmonious. Nothing great gets accomplished when you want to be happy and comfy. I realized that wanting to be HAPPY all the time is not conducive to what I feel my life’s purpose is, which is to show honesty on a stage, on the screen or in my writing.

What do you think people would be surprised to discover about you?

I turn into a kid when I’m at the beach, I’m obsessed with Jeopardy, and my dad jokes are relentless.

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Marland Backus: The Industrial Designer Turned Celine Breakout Star

For model Marland Backus, design was in her blood. Raised in Park Slope by her mother and assistant director father, the Pratt Institute alum is a budding industrial designer whose star turn in the Celine Winter 2019 campaign is trending on Models.com. When she’s not treading the catwalk, she can be found working on her jewelry line inspired by her travels to exotic locales around the world.

While enrolled in the Industrial Design program at Pratt Institute you rejected offers to model. Were you ever tempted to drop out and see how modeling panned out at the time?

It never even crossed my mind! I was totally focused on my design work at the time.

Talk to us about your design sensibility.

I try not to think about what people would buy or even what they would wear. I try to come up with things I’ve never seen before and I don’t ever limit myself by material or style. A lot of my pieces are very different but I still somehow feel they all have a similar vein running through them.

What designers have had the greatest influence on you?

I really try to look all over for inspiration but two jewelry designers I really love are Joyce J Scott and Richard Mawdsley.

Talk to us about the materials you prefer to use when creating your work.

Recently I’ve been working a lot with beads and a bead loom, weaving images and patterns out of beads.

Talk to us about your process when creating your jewelry.

Some of my pieces require a lot of problem solving and prototyping and others just require 20 plus hours working on the bead loom.

Since you started modeling has it influenced your own designs?

Traveling has really influenced my work. I love looking at traditional clothing and jewelry for inspiration, and I have gotten a lot of inspiration from my trips to places like Morocco, South Korea, and Japan.

Your Celine campaign is trending on Models.com. How did you feel when you found out?

Surprised!

What does life after modeling look like for you?

I don’t even know what life after next month looks like. I take it as it comes.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I’m learning Japanese.

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Model Meghan Collison Reflects On Her Storied Career

Model and muse Meghan Collison is a veteran of the modeling industry. As one of an elite number of models in Steven Meisel’s camp, Meghan has appeared on the cover of Italian Vogue seven times. Her feline gaze can be seen in a growing list of blue-chip advertising campaigns in addition to all the most sought after international runways and she shows no sign of slowing down. I recently spoke with the Edmonton native about her legendary career.

What was your childhood like growing up in Edmonton?

I had a typical childhood, except I always wanted a pet but I was never allowed to have one.

Tell us about how you were discovered.

My mom heard an ad on the radio announcing that there was a model search—hosted by Mode Models—happening at a local mall. She encouraged me to go because I fit the height requirements to enter. Much to my surprise I ended up winning the search and that’s how I started modeling. I’ve been with Mode Models for 13 years now.

How did you deal with isolation of life in New York being so far from your friends and family?

When I first moved to New York it was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. It definitely was an adjustment not being around my friends and family. This was before iPhones and FaceTime, but I remember texting and calling my family a lot. I also traveled between my hometown Edmonton and New York more frequently back then. It was a transition period, but I learned a lot about being independent and I’m grateful for the experience.

You’ve had a storied relationship with Steven Meisel, appearing on the cover of Italian Vogue several times. Tell us about what it’s like working with him.

He is amazing and inspiring to be around. I am so grateful for his love and support throughout my career. I wouldn’t be where I am without him. I am eternally grateful.

Who were your biggest advocates at the beginning of your career?

Honestly, my brother was the first person to truly believe in me. He helped me gain the confidence to move to NYC with so many unknowns in my future. He has always been there for me. Success in modeling is never a solo endeavor. I’m so thankful for all the photographers, agents, stylists, makeup artists, hairdressers, casting directors, art directors, and brands that have been advocates of mine. There are too many to even begin to name.

When did you realize you’d finally made it?

I can’t remember a specific moment, but there have been many highlights for me including: Italian Vogue covers, my image used for a limited edition puzzle by Steven Meisel, and Prada campaigns to name a few!

You’re somewhat of an industry veteran now. What keeps you interested in modeling?

I enjoy the creative process of modeling and photography. I also love traveling and meeting new people.

How has modeling shaped you and your world view?

It definitely helped make me more independent. I used to be quite shy when I was younger and it helped me overcome that as well. As far as worldview goes, I’ve been able to travel and experience different countries and cultures. It’s definitely opened my eyes and given me a greater appreciation that our differences are what makes us special.

What’s next for you after modeling?

I would love to live somewhere by the sea. It’s been a long-lasting dream of mine.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I can’t whistle.

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