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Artist through and through: This is Selassie

January 28, 2020 10:46

Picture this: For once it is sunny in Hamburg and I am on my to the Highlight Department to meet up with up and coming artist Selassie. This will be my very first face to face interview and hell yes, I was nervous. But as soon as I met Selassie and his welcoming smile at the door I felt a lot calmer. We took the industrial lift up to the top floor and there it was: the artist’s grotto, the place where the magic happened. Well, actually it was nothing like a grotto, but an open and spacious room with loft character.

Before I started recording my interview with Selassie, I was kindly offered a cup of tea and we proceeded with some small talk. Eventually, Selassie and I talked for over an hour I had the pleasure to listen to some of his latest and older projects. Literally every answer Selassie gave me on my questions made me laugh or inspired me.

TITLE gives you an insight into Selassie's positive and creative universe, you should all keep an eye on:

Selassie was born in Ghana and was raised by his grandmother and two aunties, who lived very close to him. His father moved to Boston at some point and his mother moved to Kiel, Germany when he was about two years old. Unfortunately his mother Kafui, whom Selassie followed to Germany when he was about thirteen, fourteen years old, passed away. This sad event is represented in the title of his debut album Son of Kafui: Playlist Four Ma Mother. The clever word play with “four” and “for” symbolizes the four most important women in his life, the grandmother, the two aunties and his mother. These women, particularly his mother, have always taught Selassie to love himself and to do what he loved and to trust in himself. Additionally, his roots in Ghana have always confronted him with many different types of music and dance and a very happy culture which is reflected in his personality. All these great influences can also be heard and seen in his art, whether that is music, painting, videography, poetry or fashion.

Generally speaking, Selassie is a kind of person who lives for artistry and has always been his own boss. Although he still has to do a more or less commercial job as a photographer for an online vintage shop to pay the bills, art is his passion. And he is dreaming big, at some point he wants to make a living from his art, create on stage performances and collaborate with other artists. Music is the project he picked up one and a half years ago and focuses on at the moment. Selassie explained to me that making music was the last thing his friends and family expected him to do and he never thought of him as a singer or musician, as well. Nevertheless, his chilled and non-expecting approach seems to be his secret to the great vibes in his songs. For him it is much more important to tell stories with his songs, including the videos he produces with his friends and co-producers AlexDaGod and Boston George.

His answer to my question whether his music was more like a hobby or if he wanted to conquer the world was “Both. It wouldn’t make sense to make something half good.” I thought that was very inspiring. His balanced lifestyle of perfectionism and “I don’t care what you think about me”-attitude is to equal parts impressive. He says he does pressure himself quite a lot, but doesn’t feel the pressure from listeners, viewers, or streamers. In Selassie’s point of view, people experience different things and emotions and if the energy of his works doesn’t pull someone in, that is totally cool for him. He sees himself as someone who catches vibes in a specific way and wants to share this with the world. 

Moreover, the way he sees beauty in everything and how he gains inspiration from taking walks, over visiting museums, like he did a lot during his time as a model, to capturing moments and emotions on photographs is simply encouraging. Selassie came across to me as a very striving and motivated guy with the heart in the right place. I could not imagine someone who deserves it more to make a living out of his art. He is basically always mood-boarding and his head is filled with ideas on how to portray emotions in a creative way. Not only with the words he’s using, but also the visuals in his music videos communicate something special. Additionally, one of his signature creations are differently positioned stickmen, which he usually paints, but he also included one on the cover of his album. He first started using the stickmen when is mother was sick with cancer and he didn’t know how to express his feelings.

Talking about feelings, emotions, whether bad or good, seem to be his source of creativity. Which is why he is also working on founding his own label called Emotional Intelligence Agency (EIA). Selassie wants to change things in world and he wants his music to be affirmation like. He approaches the tough and sad things he had to challenge in life and turns them into somethings positive. He said that one of his favorite songs of the album is “Hello World” and this how I experienced Selassie: a kind and incredibly creative soul who is ready to change the world and inspire people. Well, at least he inspired me and hopefully we will see a lot more of you soon. 

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The employees in the boutiques, in the design studio and in the backstage area at fashion shows wear white lab coats, as was common in the ateliers of the great couturiers, e.g. Christian Dior, and is still common today. The fashion shows for the high-priced fashion sometimes took place in the context of the Paris Prêt-à-porter shows in unconventional locations, up to shabby surroundings (construction site, metro station, dining room of the Salvation Army etc.). The boutiques are kept in plain white and gray. Margiela originally selected unspectacular locations such as a residential area in Tokyo and did not publish the addresses of the boutiques in order to require the customer to make an effort to find the store at all. The first Margiela store opened in Tokyo in 2000 and the first European boutique was inaugurated in Brussels in 2002. In 2008, a boutique opened in a basement on the edge of Munich's Maximilianstrasse. This was followed by participation in numerous exhibitions, including "Radical Fashion", which was shown in 2001 at the V&A Museum in London. In 2010 there were 36 own stores worldwide.  In 2015 there were over 50 stores worldwide, including boutiques, that only carry the MM6 collection.

The company followed a very restrictive communication policy. The designer can neither be photographed nor interviewed. Only his creations should speak for themselves and the designs should be perceived as the overall performance of the team. That's why the team always shows up in white doctor's coats after the fashion shows - nobody should stand out.

By recycling old fashion, separating, recoloring, reversing seams and zippers, both the origin and the artificial of the art of tailoring are shown. Margiela puts together what doesn't belong together: by hand, jeans turn into skirts, old army socks become pullovers. Baptized by the press as deconstructivism, this current is defined by an abrupt collision of different materials, which at first glance appear inharmonic in the sense of conventional viewing habits. Margiela herself rejects the term "deconstructivism". He resurrected clothes in a new form, he told ELLE in 1991.

Margiela was the unofficial 7th member of "Antwerp 6", a generation of fashion designers who all completed their training at the Royal Academy of Arts between 1980-1981 and shaped the "style of the Belgians". However, it does not belong to the actual group, but it became known in a similar period.

The Japanese "Street Magazine" dedicated two special editions to "Maison Martin Margiela", which were published in book form in 1999. Nicolas Ghesquière (Balenciaga) is a big fan of Maison Martin Margiela.

In July 2014, fashion critic Suzy Menkes exposed Matthieu Blazy via Instagram as Head of Design, after which he deleted his Instagram account and changed his profile in a career network. He left the company on October 1, 2014.

To this day, Margiela pieces, especially in the fashion industry and all fashion lovers, belong to the sanctuaries in every repertoire and archive. Getting vintage pieces from other designers may be possible, but Maison Martin Marginal Archives are a real hunt and that says it all about this art.