“You need a challenging partner. In a good collaboration,
differences between partners mean that one plus one will always equal more than two. ”
~ twyla tharp “the collaborative method”
“You’re like a meteor, something celestial, Haley’s comet.. You are constantly hurling yourself through space. You have a trajectory. We’re all stationary. So if we’re in your path, we’re in your path and if we’re just outside, we got a great view…” ~ Jake Wall, to me, in my interview with him
The art of the interview is something that I’m just beginning to truly understand. Even though I’m an anthropologist by training and seem to be re-visiting that part of myself through my current projects, I have been making clothes for the past decade, and haven’t been interviewing people much, until recently. But this morning, I just did my 33rd interview with my friend, chef Kelsie Kerr who just opened a beautiful “take-out” shop in West Berkeley called Standard Fare. What you realize when you interview people, even if it’s short-ish and concise, as in an hour or so (anthropologists usually spend months, even years interviewing their subjects), is that you can know someone for along time, and never know their favorite book that changed their perspective in the world, an inspirational film that saved their life, where and how they grew up, the country you can taste through their cuisine, their belief system that comes through their collection. What’s also quite amazing (and at times poignant) is when the person you’re interviewing is both a mirror and window, refracting a bit of who you are and how they see you, and makes you stop, think and reflect. My friend Jake does that to me constantly. He sees me so much clearer than I see myself, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. This is what a collaborator does. They complete you, by giving you perspective on what you’re doing, and then together, you both become more than the sum of your parts. Our interview took place after a fitting for a wedding, where Jake was making the suit, and me the one-shouldered satin top. We went on a walk with Jake’s greyhounds Echo and Chance and got take-away from our favorite Hayes Valley lunch hangout Chez Maman, where I ordered a croque madam with an egg, and whilst waiting Jake had a mimosa and me a bellini, and I started asking my questions.
INTERVIEW #11, with JAKE WALL of Artful Gentleman, Saturday March 8th 2014
On BEGINNINGS ~ “We were at the model casting. I don’t even think you said hello to me (You were like this special treatment person). You breezed in and sat down and we got to work, for about 90 minutes.. and after awhile I thought, if we’re not laughing this is going to be miserable. And the one moment that really stuck out to me is when I said “I will take Robert as long as he doesn’t fall on his face.” And you said “What if he does fall on his face” and I said, “I’ll still take him.” And it went on from there. There’s a lot of beginnings but this was one of them; and that’s where we started in my mind. What about for you?”
ME: “In my mind it was at the SNOW show (January 2013), when my motorcycle guy/model got in an accident and i needed a male model and you and Cody and Amanda and Melissa just went to it.. and found me this guy, in like ten minutes… that solidified it for me.”
JAKE: “By then you were already a real person to me and I think people forget how to be people. The best to show off and showboat (in a dog and pony show) is to be a real person. Remember the difference in the Scatter my Ashes at Bergdorf documentary, when they compare Linda Fargo to Anna Wintour? We forget so easily to be real, to be approachable.. or to just joke… like when we were trying to figure out how you knew someone and i said “you must know her because she looks artsy and might forage.” You get it…”
On TERROIR ~”I really look at myself more and more as I get older.. all the opportunity I’ve been provided come from community…I was raised through a collective of moms (in daycare) and when my mom died I went to a celebration of light and all of of the moms were there who worked with my daycare provider; so when my mom passed away I thought ‘i do not lead a life without a mom.’ I was formed and informed by village communal living. That’s really formed me. Fast forward. Through many things and what we do with Artful Gentleman, my terroir is community ~ it’s village-oriented thinking. WHO? It changes, but it’s San Francisco. It’s my business partner, my mentors for my business. My community are my friends, the organizations and causes ~ the things I’m giving back to as well. Human Rights Campaign is the organization through which I choose but the overarching motivator is equality. They have a seat at my table. I feed them. I care for them. I was called back to the (Macy’s) incubator for their advisory board. We are better so often when we provide each other with new opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be provided ~ a sense of “giving back.” My community is wherever I am. I place less emphasis on people than on the larger things they can represent… Who is that that’s eating at your table? 3 yrs ago it was Julie. Time has moved on, our chapter is over. Which doesn’t mean she won’t be in another chapter; but for right now that chapter has come and gone, which is why I’m ok with eating alone. I have equality eating with me and creativity, and the drive to change the world. I’m always having dinner with those guys but sometimes Cari is there and sometimes Nate is there…”
On the HRC “SUIT UP FOR EQUALITY runway show 2013 ~ “I think that that day was filled with a lot of great memories. But at the end, at the end of the runway, when we were hunkered down trying to get through the models and we didn’t know what to do and we hugged. I just remember that moment; but professionally with what we do ~ that was a big one.
On CLOTHES ~“I’d almost say that clothes for me are almost the exact opposite. They are a specific idea. Why I started in made-to-measure and individual client model.. we create overarching models, that’s part of my responsibility. People want a bit of my story but for me what I enjoy about the clothes and what we’re doing is creating self-portraits and autobiographies, in fabric. If it’s a book format, I’m a ghost writer, but we always want to make sure the client’s voice is really clear in what we do. That’s why it’s very important ~ the finished pieces. It’s a conversation..”
Left: Models, Helena Martin, Mitch Colleran. Right: Models, Conrad Sherby, Helena Martin, Mellissa Gray, Cory Schisler, Mitch Colleran, Kimberley Roselle, Bini Lee, Robert Mull III. Photos: Kelly Puleio
On CONVERSATION and CONTEXT ~ “With the collections we make, it’s a lovely monologue, but it doesn’t replace the dialogue. I love the conversation that happens, and that conversation is interesting. I think clothes should have a personal statement. It’s a commentary. It’s a discussion. I don’t like looking at clothes that don’t matter, that don’t have a voice or opinion. Like Sharon Stone with GAP shirt. The context of that experience mattered. It shared with us the story that anything could look classy in context…”
And for me, it’s all about context, and the context for friends and collaborators is constantly changing. I love working with people and doing things together; I adore being pulled into their world, and for them to come along and be in mine. And what is at times jarring is how something can be planned to happen and then various worlds collide at once. This is what the salon dinners are like, and what is exciting about the possibility about that intersection. I invited Jake and Kelly Puleio, the photographer of our collaborative shoots, to a studio dinner #26, which I co-hosted with the director of the Monterey Museum of Art Charlotte Eyerman. She brought her world, and me mine, and around the table sat a combination of guests from the art, fashion, film, food, wood-working and travel worlds. And to make a further connection ~ Madeleine Fitzpatrick, who I asked to bring a salad from her garden in marshall, ended up making the salad that an old friend Oliver Strand (who was my first house-mate in Oakland), had written about in the May 2012 issue of Vogue. It was a salad made of 50 or so different types of greens tom her garden…and it all began with the perfect Negroni (a favorite of Lloyd’s when we are in Italy), made by Jake and Kelly. AND to top it off, our favorite image from the photoshoot at the Legion of Honor, came out that day, in the Sunday Styles section of the SF Chronicle…and, it was Jake’s birthday ~
Left: Kelly and Jake, and a Negroni (recipe below). Right: Oliver Strand’s article on salads, in May 2013 VOGUE.
Negroni Cocktail Recipe ~
11 ounces gin, 11 ounces sweet vermouth, 11 ounces Campari
Ice, Orange twists for serving
Guests, left to right: madeleine fitzpatrick, colin stanfield, laura pacchini, christine suppes, betty ngoyen
kelly puleio, jake wall, charlotte eyerman, julian cox, ruzwana bashir, tiffany shlain, evan shively, eve love
EAT: It’s social.
DRINK: It’s decompression.
WEAR: is what you can say without words.
LISTEN: is a lost art.
DO: as much as you can. There’s always someone else waiting to jump in if given the slightest chance.
LOVE: everything. And get rid of the things you don’t.
REMEMBER: everything. But don’t hold yourself to it. History is always written by the victors.
BE: yourself; but be smart enough to realize you’re still figuring yourself out. The toughest thing is no one really knows who we really are. We’re constantly figuring ourselves out and should be. 10 years ago ~ i’m exactly that person, but there’s just more narrative.
Jake told me that INSIDE THE ACTOR’S STUDIO asks what’s your favorite curse word? and continued “Alan Alda said “horse”.. he said during a serious anger moment you need all the words and that one was left.”
SWEAR?: FUCK.. the fact that it can be conjugated. It’s utilitarian ~ “fucktard”. The brilliant bringing together…There’s so much that cane be done with fuck. It’s the swiss army knife of curse words, and it’s so cathartic.. I was in a shopping mall, took a moment and looked up and said F-U-C-K, and I felt better. Most definitely fuck.
Lloyd’s birthday, February 4th 2014 at Alexandra’s, Oakland Hills ~ Daphne Miller, Chad Arnold, Suzanne Drexhage, Susanne Kauer, Jeri Driskill
Alexandra Foote, Paul Costigan, Eve Love, Jake Wall, Jennifer Jones and Lloyd Bernberg
On CHAPTERS ~ “I move quicker in life so I run through people quicker. I have had people that wander back to me. The timing was right for both of us. So chapters is a fun, healthy way to look at it. It leaves space for a character to fake his own death and come back and surprise you. It’s like a soap opera. A writer kills them off (because the actor wants to leave to become big in Hollywood) and then the actor can’t get any work and is brought back as the identical twin cousin who you never realized existed. That’s how JACK happened. (Jack, I ask?). Yes, my grandmother used to write me a Christmas card every year, and then for four years nothing (in retrospect I realized it was the beginning of alzheimer’s). My grandfather and i had the greatest relationship after he didn’t speak to me for 4 years and I came back as JACK. What happened to Jake? I wondered. We just killed him off…”
I love Jake’s way of thinking through things, the lens he has on life (both his own and mine), and the way it merges with my continual reinvention of who I am and what I do. Whether through words written, spoken, or ideas translated through fabric, his vision and constant vigilance of bringing me into his world has pushed both of our lines forward and has continually made me rethink what I’m doing and why, at any given moment. Furthermore, the dialogue we have together in creating our own collections, whether it’s the idea of SNOW or “whiteness,” a trilogy of Hitchcock films, or TRON/past and present, are then interwoven into a single shoot or runway show which then continues on. And our next chapter? It will be the second annual HRC runway show on August 14th, inspired by TRON. What got me hooked? Jake said listen, and so I did. He played me the opening lyrics of the Daft Punk song “Derezzed,” and I did just that ~ listened… “I kept dreaming of a world I thought I’d never see, and then one day, something happened, something extraordinary, I got IN.” It reminded me of the quote from our salon dinner menu a year before ~ so why not?
“Others have seen what is and asked why. i have seen what could be
and asked why not.” ~ pablo picasso.
“In the end all collaborations are love stories.” ~ twyla tharp