Clare V Leather Card Case. Photo Credit: Clare Vivier

My love for handbags and hip hop have been mutually exclusive up until this moment, but now these two worlds have collided in a collaboration that I had to shine a spotlight on.  As part of the release of their next issue, the Australian lifestyle magazine Monster Children has enlisted the editorial styling of Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys.  Issue #43, which was released this week, showcases content culled by Mike D featuring surf, skate, hip hop and art luminaries.

Perhaps the coolest part of his guest editorial gig was that Diamond curated a limited edition box set of designed items that will be sold alongside the new issue of the mag.  The unique set includes items created by featured artists and designers that collaborated with Mike D.  If that isn’t enough for you, Clare V, Mike D and Monster Children are selling limited edition bags and leather card cases to commemorate this design equivalent of a cipher!


I am obsessed with the artwork designed by Mike D that lines this Clare V’s Cartable.  The slim canvas tote has tan leather handles and is screenprinted with MDMCCV; as cool as it looks on the outside, I’d totally rock this bag inside out.  It’s an awesome piece that I may just buy for my husband and then steal from him immediately…

Clare V Cartable. Photo Credit: Clare Vivier

Clare V Cartable. Photo Credit: Clare Vivier

Back to the box set.  I really love the photography of Josh Cheuse that’s also featured in the limited edition set.  If you are not familiar with the artist’s work, check out this video.

Stussy – Josh Cheuse from Stussy on Vimeo.

The box set is available for sale on June 16th, but Monster Children is accepting pre-orders now.








Image Credit: HOC on Pinterest

I think the most interesting developments in Hip Hop are taking place off the commercial radio dial and buried deep in the underground.  Let’s go mining.

I sat down with the reclusive underground producer/artist RenRok in his L.A. studio.  We talked about the state of hip hop, musical influences, and his most recent project called “Sixty Studies” whose title was inspired by an unlikely source.



CSA:  Where did you get the title “Sixty Studies” from?
RenRok:  The title came from Etude books I played as a kid.  Etude books are typically short compositions designed or prepared for violin and piano to serve as a training or teaching mechanism to learn a specific skill.  You practice the etudes over and over and they are designed to help students learn or master a technique of that instrument that they will use for larger pieces or concertos.  I play the violin. Actually, my first introduction to music was through formal training in classical music, specifically violin.

CSA:  Why create this album?
RenRok:  I created this album because what seems to be lacking in a lot of music are joints that go to the essence and emotion of a particular piece of music.

CSA:  What do you mean by that?
RenRok:  In a lot of music today that I would consider good or interesting hip hop, producers tend to want to show off every little technique in their bag of tricks.  Whether that be excessive use of stutter techniques, filtering, plug-in effects, weird samples, etc

The purpose of this album was to get to the point of specific old school techniques used in hip hop namely in MPC style productions.

CSA:  Who is your audience for this album?
RenRok:  My audience for this album is anyone who loves honest, underground hip-hop.  But the more I think about it, I believe this album is a dedication to underground producers who do it for the love of music.

CSA:  What do you mean by honest hip hop?
RenRok:  That’s a complicated and loaded question, but I’ll try to answer it. Hip hop which I would consider to be not ” honest” seems to fall in 2 broad categories:
1.  Music produced, written, and created simply or primarily to sell the largest number of records whose creativity is driven solely by the tastes of the masses at that time.
2.  Production that is primarily focused on mimicking or copying the works of prior esteemed producers without any originality or creativity of their own.

CSA:  So do you have some examples?  I’m not gonna have you put anyone on blast though! How about giving us some examples of honest hip hop.  
RenRok:  Haha.  Yes, as to the first category, there are albums that have a great deal of commercial success that I would consider honest b/c the artist created the music from their heart or life experience and didn’t give a damn about whether the listener would “get it” or understand. Some albums that come to mind in this category would be Wu Tang’s “Enter the 36 Chambers”, Cypress Hill’s first album (the 1991 self-titled debut, “Cypress Hill”), or “Critical Breakdown” by Ultramagnetic MC’s.

Those are albums that when first heard them, you’ve never heard anything quite like them and you know the artist had no assurance that the style would work, but they did it anyway.

As to the second category there’s a school of thought in production that I don’t consider to be “honest” that’s solely aimed to replicate the sound of a revered producer whether that be Dilla-esque, Primo-esque, Pete Rock-esque… Everyone utilizes elements of these great producers because they’ve listened to them over the years so much, but you should always try to add or develop your own individual and unique style.

CSA:  Let’s talk a bit more about the style and technique that you used in this album.  
RenRok:  Someone listening to this album and each of the tracks will find many similarities b/c they were produced in the same, what I would call “MPC Style,” but within each of these songs there were subtle differences in the techniques that were used. Some involved heavily chopped vinyl samples, some tracks involve live instrumentation sampled into an MPC and some tracks involve synthesizers, keyboards and other modules MIDI-ed up and sequenced through an MPC.  I’ve also intentionally included tracks that are interludes, beats for vocalists to spit on later, one joint is a re-mix, and others are MPC abstractions.

Taken as a whole the tracks on this album are intended to mimic the classic Etude books that I studied while growing up which exemplify distinct musical techniques that can be used when playing a specific instrument. (in this case an Akai MPC)

CSA:  Wow that sounds pretty heavy and conceptual.  Will non-producers get it?
RenRok:  Absolutely!  This isn’t a high brow, avant-garde, art house type of joint. Just bump it in your car on your way to the house party, the beach, or picking up some fresh new kicks and just enjoy it!

Thanks RenRok, you brought us some classic beats and taught us all something new too!

You can listen to Sixty Studies on Soundcloud by clicking below.

From there you can download the entire album for FREE on Bandcamp.com!

Incognito 2014


2014 Incognito Logo by Henry Taylor. Photo Credit: Santa Monica Museum of Art

Mystery.  Strategy.  Anticipation.  Revelation.

Incognito is the perfect training ground for art collectors who are willing to trust their instincts to add to their growing collections.  This fundraising exhibition, benefitting the Santa Monica Museum of Art, showcases artworks donated by over 550 blue chip and emerging artists.  Over 700 pieces of 10″x10″ artworks were displayed in the gallery and set at the same price point.  Once you discover a piece of art you take its corresponding number tag and pay for the piece. The catch is that the artist’s name isn’t revealed to you until after you purchase the work.

It’s a win-win for all.  Artists get exposure, the museum gets funding for its educational programs and patrons have access to art that cuts out the economic politics of galleries.  You could come away with a piece from an art world luminary or you could find yourself at the cusp of an emerging artists’ creative trajectory.

I had the pleasure of spending a few moments with Incognito Committee Chair Joy Simmons during the gala and she shared that one of the other unique aspects of this museum and this event is that they showcase emerging and established African-American artists like Henry Taylor, Betty and Alison Saar, Sadie Barnette and Kenyatta Hinkle.

I love Incognito because it exposes me to new artists and it exercises my decision-making skills (or should I say, my husband’s…)

Turns out in this forum, my husband reigns supreme.  Two years ago he copped a beautiful Rena Small photograph.  This year he selected a work by South African Artist Ralph Ziman.


“Mabara Bara”, by Ralph Ziman

This year was the 10th Anniversary of Incognito, and it is hands down my favorite art event of the year.  Congratulations to the museum and the Incognito team for putting on another fantastic evening of art.


New Yorkers are turning their cell phones into Easter Baskets while collecting massive Easter Eggs during the Fabergé Big Egg Hunt this month.  The event brings artists, charitable foundations, and other sponsors together for a virtual Easter Egg Hunt around the City.  The Big Egg Hunt first started in London in 2012 and has since been held in Dublin and New Zealand.


Curtis Kulig, Photo Credit: jtenag, Instagram

Here’s how it works:  you download the Big Egg Hunt App, check out the map and go!  Winners finding the most Eggs get Instagram bragging rights and some lucky folks will come away with some swag. The swaggiest (yes, I know) being a Fabergé Egg necklace.

The Artists and Designers donating their creative talents include Curtis Kulig, Retna, Marchesa, William Wegman, D*Face, Cynthia Rowley and many others.  You can view all the Eggs and Artists on Paddle 8’s site where the one of a kind works will be auctioned off for charity.  If you aren’t in NY check out snap happy Instagrammers using #TheBigEggHunt. You’ve gotta love eager egg hunters!


Shantell Martin, Photo Credit: Shantell Martin, Instagram



Faig Ahmed, Photo Credit: enti_tea, Instagram


Benjamin Shine, Photo Credit: The Big Egg Hunt, NY

For more info check out their playful website here:

The Big Egg Hunt

Paddle 8

Zac Posen, Fall 2014. Photo Credit: Vogue

Zac Posen, Fall 2014. Photo Credit: Vogue

So I’m kind of having a Cinderella moment.  The MOCA Gala is this evening and I’m not going.  To be honest the MOCA Gala hasn’t been on my radar since 2011, but I do love fashion, art and any opportunity where culture vultures can be viewed in their unnatural environment.  This year’s event is lacking the hype machine’s fervor this year, and there’s a pronounced lack of controversy (no rotating heads on tables, or live cadavers a la Marina Abramovic).  However in classic MOCA fashion, the 2014 Gala is sponsored by Louis Vuitton and will undoubtedly showcase the creme de la creme in Hollywood and the arts.  Absent are my favorite arts writers which I find curious, but I digress…

If these two weren't so fierce I would cast them as my step sisters in CultureShock Art's rendition of Cinderella.  Liz Goldwyn and Dita Von Teese.   Photo Credit: Liz Goldwyn, Instagram

If these two weren’t so fierce I’d cast them as step sisters in CultureShock Art’s rendition of Cinderella. Liz Goldwyn and Dita Von Teese.
Photo Credit: Goldilocksg, Instagram

In an attempt to assuage my feelings of ennui over not being Hollywood enough to attend a gala, I am watching Andre Leon Talley and Zac Posen talk fashion.  If I had a Cinderella moment, these two would show up with a glam squad and 3 gowns from Posen’s INCREDIBLE Fall/Winter 2014 collection and send me happily on my way. I adore how the simple, restrained tweed dresses and the impeccably constructed evening wear evoke Hitchcock’s femme fatale of the 50’s. Let’s not even mention the Opera Coat, it’s beyond words.

My obsession with this collection was immediate once I laid eyes on Posen’s Instagram video of Anna Cleveland in this show-stopping stunner of a gown last month.

I loved that Andre Leon Talley got a “behind the scenes” look at this amazing dress moment and also had an opportunity to chat with Zac Posen about his influences with this particular collection.

The entire collection is fantastic down to the fabulous shades, and of course anytime I see a cape, I’m delighted. Here’s the collection. I couldn’t agree with Posen more, “Elegance is timeless.”


As thousands of people made the trek home from SXSW armed with a cadre of musical experiences designed to put them on the cutting edge of what the masses won’t be taking about musically for another 6 months from now, I took a trek back into time.  A couple of weeks ago I was record shopping with my favorite producer, who gave me a challenge.  He asked me to pick one album from an artist I had never heard of before based solely on the album cover.  No advance listening, no Googling of the album or artist.  We would take the album home and find out what we’ve got.

Many of our vinyl excursions end up like this and always we’re surprised by what we get.



The album I picked stuck out to me for a few reasons.  First off there was so much going on here with the Chairmen of the Board with the Flute, Maracas, blue polyester suits and hexagonal glasses.  Then I looked at the back cover and the graphics reminded me of Ellsworth Kelly.  So I had a musical hodgepodge featured on the front and cool color blocking on the back.  It spoke to all of my creative sensibilities!


Ellsworth Kelly, “Red, Green, Blue”. Photo Credit: Walker Art Center

“In Session” was produced on Invictus Records in 1970 and was the second album by Chairmen of the Board.  Invictus was the first label to first spin-off of Motown and their sound was heavily prominent in this album.  The Chairmen of the Board was the label’s marquee group, who had their first album hit with “Give Me Just a Little More Time”, (which was tragically resurrected in a Swiffer ad).  “In Session” fused bluesy gritty guitar riffs with classic Motown R&B strings and psychedelic baselines. Turns out this second album produced 4 chart topping singles, but none of them eclipsed the popularity of their first hit single.

I think my favorite song was the “Everything is Tuesday”, with “Hanging On to a Memory” being a close second.  I learned much more about Motown and Invictus Records than I had known before, and got an interesting peek into the record industry in the 70’s. There’s a Documentary called “Band of Gold” that gives a deep dive into the industry that spawned Invictus.  Interesting stuff.  So this album took me on a musical journey that I would never have embarked upon.  Trust your creative instincts and take a chance on something you might not normally listen to, you just might be surprised at what you learn.


“When people say, ‘I don’t get art’ … that means art is working.” Love this Design post from TED

Originally posted on TED Blog:


A look at the Target Design Café at TED2014, with the North Shore Mountains in the background. Photo: Bret Hartman

For years now, Target has invited designers like Isaac Mizrahi (watch his TED Talk), Diane von Furstenberg (check out her TED playlist) and, most recently, abstract pattern-master Peter Pilotto to dream up collections. So when it came to creating the Target Design Café at TED2014, we knew it was going to be cool. The space features three enormous white barrels with plush red interiors that are perfect for lounging. Also in the space: a robotic arm composing quotes coming from the mainstage, graphologists analyzing attendees’ handwriting, and artist Daniel Duffy’s live action portraits of  TED2014 speakers.

Our favorite feature in the space is a simple one. On the cloth strips that cascade in a canopy over it all, there is writing. Here, Target has printed quotes…

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