We caught up with leather accessory designer, Zana Bayne and filmmaker/photographer/artist, Char Alfonzo to talk about their most recent collaboration film Danse Macabre, which debuted at Zana Bayne’s FW 2012 presentation, last month in NYC. The film is a dramatic fusion of fashion, photography, and music. Check out the video and our exclusive interview with the duo below:
How did the collaboration come about?
CA: Our collaborations started 2 years ago and they haven’t stopped since! For F/W 2012, Zana decided to unconventionally present her collection by displaying it at the CATM Chelsea Gallery and I was honored to share the same space with incredibly talented people like Maxime Büchi and Adrian Wilson. We were given full creative freedom and I thought, go big or go home! I decided to direct a film that was longer than the usual length I allow myself for fashion films since it was an art piece, and that’s how Danse Macabre came about.
ZB: Up until this point, our collaborations have been specifically for my brand – Char designed my logo and has been responsible for capturing my last two lookbooks and lookbook videos. Although his hand is omnipresent in these works, I wanted to see what he would create without me breathing down his neck during a shoot.
What was your main inspiration for the film?
CA: Life: the good, the bad and the ugly! Narrowing it down to its minimal expression.
What you were going for, the scene, the space, the music?
CA: I have an organic and intuitive approach when it comes to getting inspiration. I like to hear what inspired Zana and then I find my way to relate to it. In this specific case, the Mexican festivity of Dia de los Muertos was a focal point for her F/W 2012 creations. I have been obsessing lately with Camille Saint-Saëns’ classical piece, Danse Macabre. Also, Zana and I visited the catacombs in Paris last September and it was an inspiring experience for the both of us. I had the pleasure to be introduced to Sullivan Walsh’s bondage furniture pieces through Zana. I fell in love with the gothic style bed featured in the video as well with the industrial and sterile feel of his studio space.
Dia de los Muertos is about celebrating life through death. In that same wavelength, Danse Macabre depicts musically the fragility of life and the appreciation of it regardless of the struggle and pain we go through. I talked to Eden Classens, who is a model and a trained dancer about the important role that choreography would play in this piece. I needed the choreographer to deliver emotions of battle, submission and suffering but with moments of freedom, ecstasy and pure euphoria. At the same time, I kept camera movements and transitions as smooth, delicate and fragile as possible. This combination of choreographic and cinematographic style is what delivered to the audience a celebration of being alive in every aspect. You can only appreciate beauty by experiencing the ugly and viceversa. We can’t forget that there is something beautiful in the ugly as well.
What role did the harnesses play?
CA: Zana sees harnesses as objects of power, liberation and expression even though they’re meant for restrain. I wanted her pieces to show that all throughout Danse Macabre. However, I tried to take the common connotation of harnesses as objects of submission and domination out of the sexual context and give it a different and universal interpretation.
ZB: Through the years, I’ve learned that harnesses – and even just leather – have the ability to evoke feelings of sensuality and taboo even when they’re not being used in a sexual way. Their presence allows the viewer to cast their own desires onto Eden, and create their own interpretation of the emotions he is experiencing throughout the video.
What made you decide to show your collection as an off-season gallery show?
ZB: Since living in New York, I’ve noticed that each New York Fashion Week has become increasingly overscheduled. Now there are so many shows and presentations that its literally impossible to attend them all! I like the idea of showing in-between seasons, not just to avoid time slot competition, but to make sure that those in attendance are able to give full attention to the presentation at hand. As an accessories designer, my collections are comprised by classic ’perennial’ pieces which are sold year round, as well as a selection of new designs which encompass a certain aesthetic theme. Instead of showing the actual pieces, the collection was presented at CATM Chelsea through interpreted works by Char Alfonzo, Maxime Buchi, Adrian Wilson, and myself. My idea was to use the harnesses as the muse for the resulting works, the leather acting an provocative storytelling device which would inherently influence the works.
Tell me a little bit about your selection of artists for the show?
ZB: It was important for me to work with individuals whose work I admire, but who I also have a personal relationship with, and understand where I am coming from with my collection. I’ve known Maxime Buchi for a little over 2 years now, and am constantly blown away by his many mediums of expression; from his creative direction of Sang Bleu and Novembre Magazines, his work in branding and typography, his meticulous hand in tattooing. Although we have worked together in more abstract ways (he has tattooed me twice, we did a party together in London, I’ve reported for SangBleu.com, etc…), this was our first opportunity to actually work on something side-by-side.
I had been familiar with Adrian Wilson’s photographic works for some time before I finally met him this past February in London through Maxime. I had taken my collection with me on that trip, and Adrian and I ended up setting up a spur-of-the-moment shoot with two models in his studio. I loved watching how he worked, both in his speed of improvisation and subtle direction. Even though I was present throughout that day, the resulting video was far above and beyond what I could have possibly imagined. Working with Char Alfonzo was an obvious choice, as he is one of my most trusted friends in New York and someone who has been there through every step of my brand development…
What’s next for you? Will we be seeing another Bayne x Alfonzo collab?
CA: I like to take on projects that take me out of my comfort zone and challenge me. I like the feeling of approaching different crafts with fresh eyes. I find myself constantly curious, from graphic design to photography and to textile design. I was the kind of kid that wanted to know how the toys worked! But who knows, I could be making music or designing menswear next. Another Bayne x Alfonzo collaboration? Absolutely!
ZB: I’m very specific and controlling when it comes to my brand’s visual identity, but Char is someone who I can always count on to both understand my vision and take my ideas to the next level. Neither of us are afraid to give each other an honest constructive critique, which is almost impossible to come by! Needless to say, I love working with Char and can guarantee that there will be more C+Z in the future. What’s next for me? I’m reopening my online shop in 6/30 and constantly developing new styles of leather. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve for the coming months, but you’ll have to wait until then to find out.
You like what you see? You’re on your own for the wrought-iron bed and ominous abandoned warehouse location BUT… lucky for you (and me) Zana Bayne just re-launched her webstore and it’s full of hand made – ready to wear leather accessories that have caught the attention of celebs such as Lady Gaga, Shirley Manson, Cassie, Ciara, and more. You can check out her fully redesigned and restocked webstore here and below are our picks from the video:
Francesca Harness: The Francesca is a natural progression from the “basic” harness, but admittedly much more hardcore. The 3 layers of straps take on a vest-like appearance when worn open, and a corsetted look when closed in the front. (Also available in Vegan leather.)
Hex Harness: The bold lines of this wicked harness stem from occult symbolism and enneagram formations. Although originally intended to be worn with the design on the back, it also effortlessly works reversed.
Basic Harness: The first Zana Bayne leather harness – a clean and minimal design. This is probably a good gateway harness for the rebel in you who’s dying to spice up your everyday look. This is our favorite harness and it’s also available in white, natural, and yellow.