Alexander McQueen RTW, F/W ’09
(top) image courtesy of the suzanne geiss company
Alexander McQueen RTW, F/W ’09
(top) image courtesy of the suzanne geiss company
Much has been made of the fashion magazine’s last stand–the dying-off of print, thanks to digital platforms–for some time now. And while it’s been encouraging for print enthusiasts to see sites like Style.com, GILT and Net-a-Porter turn to print once their digital assets succeed, these instances are few and far between.
Count 18-year-old blogger and North Carolina native Willie Greene as one of those rare instances. He’s the man behind one of Tumblr’s most followed fashion blogs, WeTheUrban. And he’s turned it into a magazine–marking the first time a tumblr has ever turned into a serialized print publication.
Greene, along with pal (and my former employer), WeTheUrban cover star, Nicola Formichetti (who has his own Fashion Focus here), toasted the mag during New York Fashion Week at a party atop the new Hotel Americano rooftop. I spoke with the entrepreneurial wunderkind on the eve of his sixth issue’s release (featuring Formichetti posing with legs wide open in a bed of toys on the cover), about growing up blogger.
What made you start your Tumblr, WeTheUrban, in 2009?
In 2009, I had already been a huge internet enthusiast and I had wanted to start a blog of some sort for the longest time. I was 15 at the time and after experimenting with other blogging platforms like Blogger and LiveJournal, my good friend Aly Silverio (of Shop Jawbreaking) finally convinced me to join tumblr. And my life has changed ever since! No other blogging platform, creatively, is on the same level as Tumblr. The real sense of community really drew me.
How did you then turn this platform into a widely-read force?
If you go back and look at the first posts ever on WeTheUrban, you’ll see that there was no clear direction. It wasn’t until a few months of having the blog that I decided to post specifically on fashion. Then it all eventually turned into all of my loves: music, design, art, and fashion. I jumped aboard Tumblr right as it was popping off, so starting early and ahead of the game was a big plus for me. This helped me get placed into Tumblr’s first-ever directory (if you can imagine a Tumblr with no ‘Ask boxes’, directories, or radar… that’s the way it was) which quickly started getting me hundreds of followers a day. After staying consistent with the blog for about a year, I decided I wanted to take a stab at making an online magazine. The first few issues were real learning experiences, but people seemed to really like them. Fast forward to today, we’re now nationally distributed in print, have over 270,000 Tumblr followers, and over 10 million page views since the site’s inception. It’s amazing what you can do when you have a clear vision and are smart at utilizing the internet.
What made you turn your blog into a full-fledged print publication? Why go into print when it’s dying?
No matter how digital my life becomes within the next few years, there is not one person on earth that can convince me that holding a magazine in your hands isn’t a different experience from reading it online. Fashion and magazines to me are tangible arts that should never be limited to the confines of an iPad or computer screen. Secondly, I think a part of me did it as a symbolic way of commenting on the way our insanely fast and often vicious industry works. Maybe I’m doing it just to say that I could? That an 18-year-old black kid from the middle-of-nowhere North Carolina can be one of the youngest Editor-in-Chief’s in history to create a nationally distributed publication. Don’t get me wrong, though… I still realize that it’s business at the end of the day, and I definitely want WeTheUrban to push things forward.
You’re from North Carolina and still live there. What’s the fashion like?
Pretty much just as bad as you could imagine [laughs].
How do you keep your site and magazine afloat, both staff-wise and financially?
This is probably the hardest part of doing all of this. I actually have no clue! [laughs] I still handle all of the postings on the site along with all social media accounts and that’s not including the strenuousness work it takes to actually create and edit a magazine, practically by myself. I do have a Chief Operating Officer (who also regularly contributes to the magazine) who has been a dream in helping bring in sponsors and get the magazine in front of the right eyes. I also just hired a new Executive Editorial Assistant (Jillian Mercado), who is basically both a godsend and a second pair of creative hands that actually lives in New York while I’m still in NC. Right now, we’re all just going with the flow and it seems to be working!
You have a great relationship with Nicola Formichetti, as he is your Issue 6 cover star. Tell me about how this blossomed.
This actually came about in a really genuine way. I had met Nicola about a year before the cover shoot (we shot Issue 6 last April) and to my surprise, he had already been following the blog. One thing about Nicola is that his taste is always ahead of the game – whether it’s fashion or technology, Nicola, by nature, just knows what’s good before the rest. So after chatting with him a few times through Tumblr messages, I finally got up the nerve to ask him if he’d like to be our Issue 6 cover star and he was 100% down and really into the blog, which is still really surreal for me. He ended up letting us get really intimate and shoot inside of his home and ended up giving a beautiful in-depth interview. He’s really one of the most inspiring and down-to-earth people I’ve met in the industry thus far.
Within this short time, what have you learned about the industry and more importantly, about yourself?
I’ve learned that you absolutely have to follow your gut, watch your mouth, and stay humble. About myself? The main thing I’ve learned is–cliché, I know–that with enough hard work, literally anything is possible. Anything.
What’s next for you and WTU?
This year’s going to be really exciting. First thing’s first, I need to finally move to New York. After that, we’ve got a pretty big site re-design and some great events this April.
Congrats to Janet on marrying Wissam… months ago.
I promise I’m not mad I wasn’t invited.
Third time’s a charm.
Find more J on the blog here.
WORLD PREMIERE: “TKO” – Wynter Gordon
(Feat. The Oxymorrons)
The blog’s been M-I-A for a minute, but, that don’t mean I ain’t still on my grind. Peep MY MUSIC VIDEO DEBUT… yes! You read it right… I’ve officially been crowned a ‘video hoe’ by my girl, Wynter Gordon, with a cameo spot in her accompanying ADHD visual for fire-track, “TKO” (off of her upcoming Sanguine EP) beside model Shaun Ross. Check the full clip below to watch me grace your screen as I cross one off my bucket list. Check. Behind-the-Scenes images to come… click images to enlarge.
MH Clothing Credits:
Celine aviator sunglasses, The Row tee & leather leggings, Nine West booties,
Vintage marines silk bomber jacket, Tom Binns gold necklace,
Miscellaneous estate jewelry (rings, watch, bracelets).
Anyone who knows me, knows I reek of Le Labo’s “Santal” fragrance – inside and out… myself (cologne), my home (candle and room spray), my clothes (detergent – yes! they make one!). I contributed a quote to a piece on the made-to-order brand’s burgeoning cult status for Paper. Peep the feature here.
Finally got to see Brandy live in concert
She’s been one of my faves since I was a youngin’!
Her voice is a national treasure.
Watch her celebrate her idol, Whitney Houston,
with a tribute medley throwdown (below).
The countdown begins…
Maison Martin Margiela x H&M takes the world over
November 15, 2012
“Anytime, Anyplace” – Janet Jackson
Thanks to everyone who inquired about my safety during and after Sandy.
I am safe and sound now. Almost back to normal…
Take a look below at what my hood endured.
Donate to the rebuild efforts in NYC and NJ here.
Watch MTV’s “House of Style” documentary on Smoke & Mirrors now!
Famed British milliner, Philip Treacy, unveils his latest
S/S collection inspired by Michael Jackson.
Look closely and you’ll see MJ with Macaulay!
A searing documentary on the year 1977 in New York City.
A very different place than it is today…
The birthplace of hip-hop, no wave/punk, and disco.
Featuring commentary by Zulu pioneer, Afrika Bambaataa, and more.
I’ve featured Ryan Leslie on S&M in the past, but, seeing him live blows anything he’s done previously to smithereens. You probably know him as the producer behind Cassie’s first album’s Electro&B sound and his noteworthy collaborations with Kanye West, Red Cafe and Fabolous. He’s one of the most underrated talents there is today. He plays every instrument you hear, writes and performs every lyric. His latest LP, LES Is More, is available now. If you haven’t peeped his in-studio ‘making of’ videos – you’re missing out – R.LES is REAL MUSIC. Watch some below.
In what may be the most unique thing about his latest project, Leslie commissioned The Royal School of Needlework under the royal patronage of her majesty the Queen, to embroider his logo for the album cover.
How dope is that?
Had a chance to catch HOVA live at the newly-opened Barclays Center in BK. The show was part of his special multi-night concert series in honor of the arena’s ribbon cutting. I wasn’t floored by him live, but, you can have the final say – peep the full finale show below.
In between quoting Honey Boo Boo Child (Go-go juice, anyone?), speaking in a British accent and watching YouTube virals (namely “Sweet Brown”), Wynter Gordon makes some pretty killer music. We got a first-hand glimpse into her process at a studio session in SoHo, where she debuted tracks from her second “Human Condition” EP, entitled Sanguine, debuting in full soon. She also premiered her soon-to-be-released Major Lazer collaboration, “Keep Cool,” featuring Shaggy. (Yes, “It Wasn’t Me”-Shaggy.)
Having penned tracks for Ciara (most recently her single, “Livin’ It Up,” with producer D’Mile), Jennifer Lopez, and collaborating with dancefloor mongers David Guetta, Diplo and Flo Rida, Gordon doesn’t always favor everything she makes, for herself at least. “I’m always writing. Sometimes two or three songs a day. I don’t always like everything necessarily for me, so, they’ll find their way to others. It’s as simple as that,” she explains. Her biggest solo hit, “Dirty Talk,” enticed fans with its uptempo Euro sound, but as she puts it, she’s much less one-note. “Record labels try and put you in a box. Especially as a young black woman, you either do dance or you do hooks. That’s why this four-part EP is so important to me. It showcases all that I love, all the melodies I grew up listening to in the ’90s. Stuff that doesn’t always fall into any certain category too easily.” She toyed fearlessly with adult contemporary on “Human Condition’s” first part, Doleo (translating to “pain” in Latin), referencing everything from Phil Collins’ drums to Wilson Phillips’ harmonies. Sanguine (meaning optimism), produced by DJ Camper, continues in this tradition, this time incorporating wider wavelengths of rock, hip-hop and ceremonious soul.
“Reach Out,” the first track on Sanguine, is “so many different stories to so many different people. It’s about moving forward, getting better,” describes Gordon. “It has this big sound. Like screaming from a mountain top.” Camper’s orb-like backdrop coasts over a street knock, enlivening the track’s inspiring context.
“Tomorrow,” to which Gordon’s already shot a video for, is “in a way like a short story about myself.” Featuring a verse by an emcee named Salomon Faye a.k.a. “The Illusion”, whom she met perusing Chelsea Market one day; the song brings together a hip-hop knock with dub-reggae buzz, most commonly associated with Ace of Base.
Opening with a harpsichord synth, “Levitate,” is in Gordon’s words, a track that’s “poppy without being too poppy.” We might fly away, she sings, over a climbing bass. “It’s one of my favorites.”
“Swimming” is her ‘show you how to do it’ Sunday afternoon sex jam a la Aaliyah’s “Rock The Boat.” The songstress plays with ambiguous sexual metaphors (her treasure in the sand, for one) similar to those of Janet Jackson and R. Kelly before her.
“TKO,” which stands for ‘technical knock out,’ is exactly that: a bomb of brain-smashing dub sounds so raucous; it’s impossible not to move. “This one’s for the fans,” she prompts. “It’s got that ‘bang’ and so does the video. We shot it in Chinatown. It’s totally bonkers.”
The Blonds‘ show is always the most fun you’ll have at NYFW.
This season, they take us to the beach – the best beach there is -
one with corsetted bitches galore.
My boy, Cesar Ramirez, has killed it once again! This time for client, Ciara’s latest video for new single, “Sorry” off her upcoming One Woman Army LP. He explains of the transformation, “We spent months working on this evolution… we really focused on creating this super naturally beautiful yet minimal look…the cut is inspired by her free flowing spirit. It’s a great medium length with lots of layers creating much movement. It has a rock and roll feeling, and yet still embraces the sexiness of her R&B/hip-hop music.”
To get the look, Ramirez used the Shu Uemura Tasai Versatile styling cream to create texture in her hair. He then used a flat iron to sculpt bends into the hair to perfectly frame her face. He finished the look with Shu Uemura’s Cotton Uzo to define the texture, add shine and give it some hold. Peep the video below.