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SSENSE ASIA-PACIFIC

Interviews and Fujifilm photographs Laura Bannister

Book week

What the designers, photographers, stylists, writers, models and model agents were reading at the Australian incarnation of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

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Britt McCamey, fashion editor of i-D Australia and New Zealand

 

The book: Astragal by Albertine Sarrazin, 1965

Photographed at dinner on the penultimate night of fashion week.

“I bought it in New York at Strand Books. It’s so dead, but so warm.”

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Bianca Spender, designer

The book: Lee Miller on both sides of the camera by Carolyn Burke, 2005

Photographed backstage, just before her show.

“I stumbled upon this book in my father’s library when he was moving. I went through thousands of books and had to limit myself to choosing my favourites. This was one of the treasures I discovered. I have loved Lee miller for over 10 years. I discovered her first as a muse of the surrealist artist Man Ray and found her portraits captivating. Later, I discovered she was a war photographer and journalist for US Vogue—her images of the second world war are unforgettable. There is one picture of two women, one with a gas mask on and one with an eye mask on, at the opening to an underground bomb shelter. I love how these women had taken the time to do their hair—even in the war—like it was their way of escaping from the ugliness of it all.”

Shane Gibson, model at Jaz Daly

The book: Dance dance dance by Haruki Murakami, 1988

Photographed at the off-schedule presentation Double Rainbouu, in collaboration with Richard Nicoll.

“I’ve got 50 pages left. Even though its fiction it’s based on someone’s concept of their own reality. I’m of the view that everyone in society has or her own reality, so that’s why I’m drawn to it. It touches on prostitution—on a character chasing the love of his life, who happens to be a prostitute. I’m intrigued by that.”

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Valerie Norman, model agent at Kult

The book: Daphnis and Chloe by Longus, circa 200 AD

Photographed outside the Di$count Universe show.

“I took this from my fiancé’s bookshelf! I just finished it on the weekend on my flight back from Melbourne. I like [that] it’s an Ancient Greek love story but feels completely relevant. It’s about two adorable and naive kids that discover love for the first time—and that love’s only cure is kissing. Each of them has their own trials and tribulations, especially poor Chloe! After fending off a line of suitors, she gets taken hostage by pirates! But there is a really sweet ending that I won’t ruin for you. I do like this line: ‘There was never any yet that wholly could escape love, and never shall there be any, never so long as beauty shall be, never so long as eyes can see.’”

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Derek Henderson, photographer at M.A.P

The book: The better angels of our nature: why violence has declined by Steven Pinker, 2011

Photographed at Dion Lee.

“I’m reading this on my Kindle, which is what I mainly read from now. The subject matter of this book is about violence and why it has declined, both in the long run and short run, [with] explanations as to why this has occurred … If you believe what the mainstream media publish about violence in our society, you’d think it was on the increase, which in fact is not the case. It’s been on the decline since the 1800s, apart from two spikes in the 20th century: world war one and two. Overall, we live in the most peaceful of ages.”

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Nic Pesto, model

The book: The intent to live: achieving your true potential as an actor by Larry Moss, 2004

Photographed between shows at the Carriageworks entrance.

“I bought this because I started studying acting this year and I’m finding it really interesting. I’m reading this in my spare time. I like the fact that it’s basically an honest study of human beings—it’s not just about acting, it’s about being yourself.”

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Elise Pioch, founder of Maison Balzac

The book: Jean Cocteau, Cahier de coloriage by Jean Cocteau, 2013

Photographed on the final day of fashion week in the Museum offices.

“My mother gifted this to my daughter when she was born—Loulou and I have read the whole book many times already. I think Jean Cocteau is the cleverest, most eclectic artist whose collaborations with Cartier, Schiaparelli, CHANEL, Picasso, Russian ballets and Stravinsky made him the best-connected man on the planet! I particularly love his childish, naive, dream-like thoughts and drawings. My favorite quote from this book is, ‘Mirrors should think longer before they reflect.’”

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Anna Pogossova, photographer

The book: The ocean at the end of the lane by Neil Gaiman, 2013

Photographed at Emma Mulholland.

“I have electronic copies of all my books on my iPhone and iPad, so I can read them when I’m in transit or when I’m waiting around. I read three or four books simultaneously so it’s much more practical off my phone. I like a very specific type of fiction, so I usually try out Goodreads’ or Amazon’s suggested books, based on the ones I’ve read and loved: VALIS by Philip K Dick, Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins, Grimus by Salman Rushdie, The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham and The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I go for books which sit somewhere between science fiction and magic realism and are informed by either philosophy, science, theosophy or all of the above. I have only just started The ocean at the end of the lane, and it hasn’t grabbed me yet, but Neil Gaiman seems like an author who fits [my] criteria.”

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Jenny Kim, hair stylist at M.A.P

The book: Armed with madness by Mary Butts, 1928

Photographed backstage at Christopher Esber.

“It was a gift from my ex-husband. I’m only about 20 pages into it. It’s a strange book, written in a way that’s quite dream-like and conceptual. So far it’s been mostly introductions of characters and descriptions of settings but now there’s speak of a sacred grail—so I guess there’s a mythical or religious aspect to it. It’s weird. To be honest I was quite interested in this writer mostly from reading about her personal life. She had some pretty cool friends, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and Roger Fry to name a few. Particularly of interest to me was the fact that she was credited to having collaborated with Aleister Crowley—another amazingly cool friend—on his own books on magic, all the while smoking lots of opium and abandoning her only child. [Here’s a quote]: ‘Armed with madness, I go on a long voyage.’”

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Wendy Syfret, editor of i-D Australia and New Zealand

The book: Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola, 1867

Photographed at dinner on the penultimate night of fashion week.

“I bought it [the other] week when looking for a Mother’s Day present. I’d actually just finished a non-fiction book about the love and sex lives of famous authors. I am obsessed with the interplay of high and low culture, and while it sounds weird, that’s really alive in late 19th century French literature. I knew about Emile Zola as a bit of a spiritual and artistic second to Gustave Flaubert who wrote Madame Bovary. I love that book and Gustave—I call him Gus in my head—so when I saw Thérèse Raquin I picked it up, thinking it could be a nice alternative to just re-reading Madame Bovary for the hundredth time. The blurb really sold me: the book is all about selfish, doomed, destructive love and ordinary people trying to find some excitement and romance in their everyday lives. Obviously it’s a 150-year-old book about sex so everyone pays with their lives in the end. High drama cloaked in intellectualism …

Therese is the central character, a classic bored housewife looking for a thrill, but her suffocation and frustration is pretty relatable. There is this heavy sense of the world passing you by, and the reality that you’d break everything near you to just feel something new. She’s very much an anti-hero [and] things get super dark … It’s funny because when it was released it was a big success, commercially and critically, but reading it today it’s really pulpy. Her sexual and romantic awakening is so frenzied it’s almost at soap opera levels. Sometimes classic books can feel a bit slow. This gives modern beach reads a run for their money when it comes to excitement. I also love how lush it is, it’s big on themes. The shop they live above is her tomb; the customers [are] corpses, the lovers are animals.

Apparently Zola said he wanted to ‘study temperaments and not characters.’ Each of his characters is assigned one of Galen’s four temperaments: melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic and choleric. So the four main characters interactions are allegories for every kind of person and relationship. Naturalism was a hot topic at the time and this book is representative of that. It’s a very unblinking look at people and all their failings. In some ways it’s about these lovers and this family, but overall it’s about human nature, how easily we can cannibalise each other.”

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Zac Bayly, editor of FFF Zine

 

The book: The city and the pillar by Gore Vidal, 1948

Photographed at Double Rainbouu—in collaboration with Richard Nicoll.

“I ordered it from Book Depository. I read it a couple of years ago and just finished reading it again before answering these questions. I mean, the appeal is quite obvious—it’s about a gay man in his 20s discovering himself in an outwardly anti-homosexual or closeted world. It’s beautifully written, and it’s nuanced in its portrayal of the main character Jim as a homosexual guy, and it all feels very real (this Gore Vidall guy seems to be a decent writer). Importantly, it’s short, which works well with my ever-decreasing attention span.”

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Lesley Crawford, stylist at SBS

The book: Vivienne Westwood by Vivienne Westwood and Ian Kelly, 2014

Photographed before the TOME runway.

“This was a gift from my daughter in law. I’m up to page 314. I like it because it is beside my bed and I can pick it up and read a few pages or chapters spasmodically before I go to sleep … One of her quotes is: ‘I never wanted anyone to love me. Love is not essential to me. I am grateful if I am liked. But I have no expectation that I will be. I loved being on my own. The best compliment to anyone that I could give is that being with them is as good as living on your own.’”

Sarah Starkey, stylist at Company 1

 

The book: Someone like you by Roald Dahl, 1953

Photographed at Dion Lee.

Someone like you is a collection of Roald Dahl’s very twisted adult short stories. It’s strange and suspenseful, with each short tale sucking you in instantly. It’s dark comedy at its best, really. My favourite story is called ‘Taste’, and it’s about a man who bets his daughter’s hand in marriage based on a wine-tasting contest. I’m about to read ‘The Great Automatic Grammatizator’, which begins with, ‘Well, Knipe, my boy. Now that it’s all finished, I just called you in to tell you I think you’ve done a fine job.’”

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Michele McQuillan, hair stylist at M.A.P

The book: Champagne supernovas: Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen and the 90s renegades who remade fashion by Maureen Callahan, 2014

Photographed at Carriageworks.

“I’m only halfway through, but it’s been a blast from the past and somewhat of a revelation! I love the fact it gives you an understanding of how grunge came about in 90s London—it’s like revisiting my rebellious years. This is when I moved to London, worked at TONI&GUY in Davies Street and started working with Guido [Palau]. The book rekindles many very familiar scenarios … I still remember vividly those Babes in Toyland nights where fashion soared beyond reason or trend. You could do and be whatever you dreamed … You realise what a genius McQueen was. Because I’m English, I wasn’t aware of Jacobs’ beginnings, not to mention Kate who was always an inspiration and ready to try anything. The 90s was a giant electrical storm of fashion and music. You either loved or hated [it]. It’s all in Champagne supernovas and I can’t wait to read more!”

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Emma Mulholland, designer

The book: Girl in a band: a memoir by Kim Gordon, 2015

Photographed after her show, on the runway.

“Sadly I think I’m [only] about half way through. I’m ashamed I haven’t finished it! I got it because I love Kim Gordon. She is unbelievably cool and lived through what I think would of been some of the most exciting times in music, which she also contributed to hugely. She has incredible style, started the brand X-Girl (along with Daisy von Furth) and has some amazing anecdotes about my other dream dinner guests, Kurt Cobain and Chloe Sevigny. She is the original Riot grrrl.”

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