Don't Call It a "Best Of": The SSENSE 2016 Recap
A year ago, SSENSE appointed Joerg Koch, founder of 032c Magazine, as Editor-in-Chief—a new chapter of editorial production exploring the nexus of content, commerce, and culture. Over the past 12 months, we have increased our volume and broadened our field of focus. We tapped into photographers’ rich visual imaginations and shared with you some of our favorite artists, designers, architects, and musicians. Here is a recap of some of our work from 2016.
The London-based duo captures the landscapes of Japan along with the country’s most refined womenswear. The photographs reveal a world that has become a postcard of its original self. Yet within this mixture of reality-cliché, we find the true beauty of the season. Sunsets speckled with commuter traffic. Apartment complexes lit yellow like daffodils. Mount Fuji looming on the horizon like the logo of an enormous water bottle. This is how we find splendor in a world that has been photographed and geo-tagged millions of times. This is how the ancient cycles itself into the powerful presence of the everyday.
Photographer and filmmaker Jamie Morgan brings the fusion of street fashion and studio portraiture he pioneered as a co-founder of the legendary Buffalo Collective into the richly layered world of menswear designer Grace Wales Bonner. Here, Wales Bonner art directs a video portrait of King Owusu, her model and muse, embodying the spirit of her Spring/Summer 2016 “Malik” collection.
“Critique has always been a commodity. All of yesterday’s rebels are now the creative class today.” If the fashion-art complex is destined to crash into a wall of emojis and brand collaborations, then Babak Radboy is likely to be its driver. He is an artist disguised as a creative director. Or, he is a creative director disguised as an artist. His work is a puzzle, a dialectic, and sometimes a joke.
“Luxury means you bought something you spent your hard-earned money on, and it makes you feel happy. It’s lavish. Everybody’s going to see it and be like, 'Man, that ain’t just no playpen, that’s like the real deal.' It might be a diamond Rolex watch to some people, or it might be like a little earring to another.” — Swae Lee

“Rarity is luxury. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. It doesn’t have to be super expensive. It doesn’t have to be big. But if you got it, and you can’t see that everywhere, it’s a luxury item.” — Slim Jxmmi
For Miu Miu’s debut at SSENSE, Maxime Ballesteros travels to Antonioni’s abandoned brutalist retreat on the Sardinian island of Costa Paradiso. It is a setting that matches his iconic 1960 film starring Vitti, L’Avventura, in which a woman disappears on a volcanic island. The beach retreat had to be unusual and ultra-modern—a unicorn, like his girlfriend—so Antonioni commissioned a concrete dome from the architect Dante Bini. Yet the relationship between Antonioni and Vitti did not outlast the period of construction. It was left behind, alone on the near-deserted island.
“Recently, I was thinking how a lot of people I grew up with, as they grow older, are stuck on one thing. I had this experience in 1993, and that’s the experience I’m gonna think about and talk about. Because as I get older, people are like, 'Oh, you’re in this new shit or whatever, and I don’t like that.' They get critical of the new stuff, and it’s because they’re not learning the language anymore. They’ve stopped. And every year that that happens, they're less connected to the world as it’s growing.”
“I’ve always been interested in the celebrities people become angry about: socialites, who people used to call celebutantes, anybody who was famous just for being famous. Obviously, that kind of fame is more about charisma than anything else. I always thought it was interesting how upset people get when someone becomes famous simply for being themself. To me, that seems more genuine.”
“People will tell me about shit they saw on the Internet, and I’ll be like, ‘Yo, I’ll bring you to Japan so you can go and live it.’ I’ll take someone to the Undercover retrospective show in Japan, just to introduce them to the tangibility of it, so they’re not seeing it through a fucking JPEG. I have a friend with a shaved ice stand in Hong Kong. And I asked him, ‘Does it taste good?’ And he told me, ‘It doesn’t matter if it tastes good. If it looks good, people will put photos of it on the Internet and we’re doing business.’ And I just feel like that’s the total wrong thing. The Internet is supposed to be a tool. It’s not supposed to be the truth. I can tweet, ‘I have a 15-inch penis,’ but it doesn’t make it real.”
“I make music for teenagers, bro. Maybe in a relationship, or just got broken up with, or happy and in a good place! If you like the storytelling, that’s cool, but it’s mostly just about teenage emotions. Oh my god! I think that’s what I’m gonna call my next album.”
“I feel like the purest form of creativity comes from not having. Whether that’s not having the resources to make what you want to make, not having the money to buy the clothes you want to buy so you’re cutting your sleeves off to create your own swag, or not having the training. I can’t even name two fashion schools. I don’t even know what CFDA stands for. Kanye, for example, doesn’t have the resources of training. You can give him all the money you want, but if you give it to someone who wants to put out a specific idea and doesn’t have the framework of training to put it through, you’re going to get a mess or some magic.”
For his first SSENSE editorial, photographer Danko Steiner offers a glimpse into an out-of-focus future. At a time when our screens are constantly packed with updates, minutes become decades. Teenagers need to be measured in dog years, their wisdom spans centuries. A sporadic flash of orange onto a muted background. The ambiguous fog of identity. Soft and out of focus, some roses slouch limp. What do you fantasize about now that you have seen everything? This is a youth that outlives glaciers.
For Alyx’s dual Spring collections "New Happiness" and "Love Chaos," SSENSE commissioned a collaboration with photographer Nick Knight. Illuminated by the headlights of passersby, a woman rides on a motorcycle through the streets of London in the dead of night wearing riding gear completely wrapped in reflective material. Conceived even before the clothes were designed, this video melds the kinetic force between fashion and technology. While his designs have been described “luxury streetwear,” Williams’ interpretation of luxury is grounded in engineering and endurance.
Timo Feldhaus: Your works often stage an ironic, elaborate form of failure. It’s hard to say if it’s tragedy or comedy.
Friedrich Kunath: You could perhaps say that I give failure a certain elegance. If you take away the horror, then failure is wearing a suit. The literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki once said it’s better to cry in a taxi than in a tram.
Because it looks better?
Most important is that it feels better.
The Tokyo-based photographer augments our New Icons series with his expressive swipes. 
“When I was 13 years old, punk and British fashion was really inspiring. I really wanted to look like Johnny Rotten, I really wanted to buy the t-shirts he was wearing. I asked my students, 'Do you have something like that?' Then a girl said, 'Yes, but can you wear raw meat like Lady Gaga? I can't wear raw meat.' I thought that was so different. So, maybe the pop icon doesn't equal fashion. I was quite surprised when I came to you and met many musicians, and everybody had a stylist. I thought rock bands didn't have stylists.” 
Whoever said youth is wasted on the young knew the frantic feeling of wanting desperately to grow into something, only to grow out of it. Silhouettes of confusion mark the backdrop of young adulthood. But this outward appearance of confusion can be deceiving. Those who are suspended in these moments of transition move freely through the world. The dandelion seed knows that it travels through the air faster than a rock in the gutter. Myles Hall offers a glimpse of a teen-dream afternoon in his first editorial for SSENSE.