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INTERVIEW: Bboy Blond, break dancer, part 2

Last week we shared part one of our interview with break dancer Youngkwang Joung, better known as Bboy Blond. If you missed out, you can find part one here. If you’re ahead of the game, here’s part two of our interview, we cover a stint in the army, power moves, memorable battles and the future!

Youngkwang Joung aka Bboy Blond

Youngkwang Joung aka Bboy Blond

As a Korean-born male, you were required to serve in the army. What were your thoughts when it was your time to serve?
When I went into the army, I was thinking – it’s time to stop dancing. Before me, everyone who went to the army would just stop dancing completely. It’s compulsory to serve in Korea, so when it was my time, I thought that it was my time to quit dance, too. After one year I realised there was no life without dance. So when the army gave us holiday break, I practised a little. It was only maybe twice in two months — which made it very hard — but I kept practising.

You’re a pioneer for ‘power moves’. How do you develop a new move?
It’s complicated. Sometimes new moves evolve from an accident, sometimes you just take a basic move and add your own personality to it, or sometimes inspiration comes from others’ suggestions. In the early days I wanted to shock people with moves, that’s all I was thinking. So when I competed I would keep the move a secret during warm up and then, in the battle, I would let the move loose and people never saw it coming! I feel differently about it now — I like to practice and focus on the music and let them come naturally.

Kids always ask me how do I keep doing power. How do I keep my body going? Do I work out to be able to do it? Sure, I do some sit ups and push ups sometimes, but that’s just for fitness, you don’t need to do it just do more power. Practice more and study the moves you want. Think about how it works and the technique, or watch someone else. Maybe you can’t do it exactly the way you want because of your body type or level. But the best way to learn is practice.

It gets annoying when people ask what my secret is, there is no secret, I just practice. Practice more and study the moves you want to know. Think about how it works and the technique used. I’d also say it’s better to learn how to control your body first. I always get asked how to do airflares. Airflares are hard to learn! You’re basically in the air, no feet on the ground, jumping over from one hand to the other. It’s dangerous when you’re in mid air with no hands on the ground. If you don’t know how to control your body, anything can happen. It’s a move I’m known for, but I don’t teach it to people who don’t know basic moves or don’t know how to control their body. What’s the point in having one of the hardest moves if you can’t do anything with it or tie it together with the rest of your skills?

Bboy Blond at 'World Powermoves Series'

Bboy Blond at ‘World Powermoves Series’

You mentioned your style changing from power moves to more freestyle dancing. What motivated this?
I was never pure power, even before the army. People would always see a battle with power moves but they never saw how I would train. I would practice footwork and freezes too, but I would never use any of those moves in a battle because I mostly danced with my crew where we each showed our strongest moves. It just turned out that they were better at footwork and freezes, and I was stronger with power moves. That’s why most people think I’m just a power-move guy.

Since I moved to Australia I’ve tried to enjoy my dancing even more, which has naturally changed my style. Back in the day, all I would care about is winning a battle, now I’m more focused on enjoying a battle. I still want to win, but I do whatever I’m feeling not just my best moves.

How did it feel winning Battle of the Year 2007 with Extreme Crew?
It was awesome! When we got onto that stage and we saw the audience, we thought it was crazy.  I was so impressed that there were so many people there to watch bboys, it was unbelievable. We were just happy to be there, to be at such a big event. After we made it into the final four crews all we could think was, ‘This is real, we have to kill it! We have to smash it!’ And when they announced the winner and it was us, we went crazy.

Extreme Crew at Battle Of The Year 2007

Extreme Crew at Battle Of The Year 2007

After a long career in dance, do you still get nervous?
I get nervous every time. Even if it’s a small battle, I’m still nervous. I don’t know why. My heart beats faster all the time and I have to tell it to relax! My heart never understands.

Dancing is still exciting and I’m happy that even though I haven’t competed in big international competitions for a while, people still know who I am and still like me.

What’s your most memorable battle and why?
I have two favourites. My first was in Osaka, Japan in 2002. It was first time we had been to an international battle. It was a whole new feeling being in a different country to dance. The other one was definitely Battle Of The Year 2007. It makes me happy thinking about it because it was probably the biggest competition we had ever won.

What’s your favourite country that you’ve been to for dancing?
I can’t pick just one, but I like going to Europe. When I go there to dance, there’s so many bboys from so many different countries. When I go to a competition in Australia, it’s mostly Australians, when I go to Korea, its mostly Koreans, but in Europe, there’s so many different people from so many different countries. I like going to Korea too, it’s so competitive there, and there are so many good bboys and and so many crews there. They have Drifters, Last For One, Maximum, Gambler, Jinjo, Rivers, my crew Extreme, Fusion MC. And even then, some of them make united crews. It’s hard to compete there when so many crews are really good.

Going to India was crazy. I felt like a superstar. They’ve had a few dancers there before but they were just there to do shows with no one-on-one time. When I visited, I was doing workshops and teaching dance which no one had experienced before. I travel less now, but since I moved to Australia my English has improved, and that helps a lot when you travel. So now I can enjoy a trip 10 times more because I can actually speak to more people now.

Youngkwang Joung aka Bboy Blond

Youngkwang Joung aka Bboy Blond

What’s the next competition you’d like to take part in? 
I’d like to go to a lot of the big-name competitions, UK Championships, Battle of the Year, Red Bull BC One. I don’t want to win, it’s not about that. I just want to see more bboys and new bboys. I don’t think I could go unless I could compete. To compete in most of these big competitions you need to be invited, and it’s hard being here sometimes, because now I’m representing Australia, but everyone knows I’m originally from Korea. I sometimes think if I was born here I might have had a better chance to compete in bigger competitions.

What’s it like being married while dancing around the world?
It’s hard because I travel a lot without my wife and I always have to leave her. She supports me a lot and she actually wants me to go see new countries and travel if the opportunity comes up. She’s a cool girl, she’s one of the reasons why I moved to Australia. She has seen everything I do, so she always asks why I don’t get invited to the big international competitions and events, because I’m always doing my best and pushing to be a better dancer. But they don’t want to invite me because I live in Australia now. I’ve spoken to a lot of organisers, and to bring someone out from Australia is really expensive. For the price of one Australian bboy, you can get two Korean bboys. It upsets her. She’s just looking out for the best things for me, I definitely know I married the right person.

What keeps you pushing to be a better dancer?
The scene inspires me to become better. In the early days, I was known for power moves and it feels weird that after 15 years I can still win a power-move competition. I’m really proud of myself, sometimes I don’t know how I do it. People always say I need to prepare for later in life when I’m ‘too old’ to do power moves, when I can no longer do flips and airflares. I hate when people say that. I’m doing what I like and if I can still do it – I’m going to do it. If my body decides it can’t cope with it when I’m older, I’ll do something else!

Bboy Blond by Mary Kwizness

Bboy Blond by Mary Kwizness

Who are your inspirations?
Back in the day, I was inspired by the first Korean bboys, such as Sung Hoon as well as American Bboys, like Remind and Super Dave. Today, even the new generation inspires me – they have crazy power!

What does it mean to you to be a bboy?
I don’t want to say it’s everything, because I can live without it, I just don’t want to. I know a lot of people say it should be everything and you should live every day as a bboy, but there are also other things I want to do and want to see in life. It does mean a lot to me. If I didn’t start dancing I wouldn’t be where I am today, I wouldn’t have been to a lot of the places and countries I’ve been to and I wouldn’t have met all of the inspiring people I have and who are still some of my best friends today. I don’t want to ever say that I’m not a bboy. If I could, I would dance for the rest of my life but, if I had to stop one day, I would move on. It’s been the main focus of my life since I was 14.

What would you do if you weren’t dancing?
I think I would be a totally different person. I have no idea what I would be doing, and even now I wonder what I would do if I suddenly had to stop dancing. I know I’d like to study, but I’m not sure what. I’ve tried to think about what I would do if I were to stop dancing, but every time I do, I get distracted and start thinking about bboying again!

Bboy Blond by Mary Kwizness

Bboy Blond by Mary Kwizness

What advice do you have for the new generation?
Enjoy dancing. I don’t think I enjoyed it as much when I was young like I do now because I was so focused on winning battles and competitions. If you win with that mind, you’re happy, if you lose, you’re sad. That’s all I would think of when I was young. But now I think that’s not important. Whether you win or lose, you’re still dancing which is the best part of all. Just have fun, respect all the bboys, too.

I get hundreds of requests and videos from younger dancers asking me to teach them. I like to teach and train people in person, face to face. I need to be able to see you dance, how your body works and not just one move. I feel bad sometimes because people expect me to have instructions on exactly how to do a move but they don’t realise it’s not like a recipe where you follow the exact same steps or methods as the next person.

Do you plan to stay in Australia?
For at least 3-4 years we will be here. My wife is currently studying at university so we’re going to stay and see what happens after she finishes. When I was travelling in Europe, I kept wondering what it would be like if I had moved to the UK instead. So that might be an option down the track.

Check out the latest clip of Bboy Blond showcasing his different styles in the clip below.


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INTERVIEW: Bboy Blond, break dancer, part 1

Don’t say we can’t keep a promise! You may have seen out interview preview with Bboy Blond here on Ed and Ruby TV, where we notified you that a very exciting (extended version) was on its way. Well, it has arrived! Below is part one of our chat with the world-renowned dancer. We had such an amazing time getting to know Blond, we’ve had to break our interview up into two parts, so stay tuned over the weekend for more great reads!

Interview: Bboy Blond, break dancer, part 1

Youngkwang Joung aka Bboy Blond

Youngkwang Joung aka Bboy Blond

In the world of dance, ‘Bboy Blond’ is synonymous with explosive breaking moves. The 29-year old Korean break dancer has mastered the art of ‘power moves’ over his 15-year career while he – as he describes it – is simply doing what he loves. Famous for his strength, it’s easier to list the countries Youngkwang Joung hasn’t showcased his dance talents to admiring fans in, rather than detail out the destinations he has!

Together with his bboy group, Extreme Crew, Blond cemented his name into bboy history in 2007 by winning Battle Of The Year; one of the world’s longest running and biggest break dance events, with Extreme.

In recent years, Bboy Blond has moved from Korea to start a new life in Sydney, Australia and it’s here we had the privilege of discovering more about the dancer, including his thoughts on the Australian dance scene, his big move to Australia, and the inside story to his ever-evolving career and personal life.

Originally from Korea, you’ve been in Australia for almost three years now. How are you finding it?
I really like this country, it’s much more relaxed, but the bboy scene is much smaller than what I’m used to back home.

What spurred your move to Australia?
My wife and I just got married and we were looking to start a new life and meet new people together. We wanted a new lifestyle and, at the same time, I could feel my body was tired from dancing, so we thought it was a good time for the new challenge and scene.

I was scared and nervous to move to Australia, but also very excited. I’ve travelled before but never moved countries, and I couldn’t speak English very well so everything was going to be new! I knew no one here, so I was a little scared.

Why did you start bboying?
It was my brother who started dancing first. Being the younger brother, I was always following in his footsteps asking him, “Where you going? What are you doing?”, all the time. Once I followed him to practice and he was doing some waving and freezes, so I tried it and it was fun!

When did dance transition from a fun pastime to professional activity?
I’d never been serious about anything before I started dancing. In the beginning, it was a challenge, but once I tried some new freezes and some power moves, it was like I was in a whole different world! It made me happy every time I learned new moves which made me take it more seriously.

Bboy Blond by Mary Kwizness

How did you get the name Bboy Blond?
When I was young I dyed my hair blonde for fun. All my friends were saying it suited me, so I kept doing it. At a competition one day everyone kept asking who the ‘blonde’ guy was. When I first started dancing, no bboys in Korea had a dance nickname, we just called each other by our real names, when  I came back from the army, everyone all of a sudden  had a bboy name! So my friend Baek told me I should be Bboy Blond, and it stuck. I’m not sure I like the name. At the time I couldn’t speak English and I didn’t think of what the word ‘blonde’ could mean to someone from a different country. When most people think ‘blonde’, they think of a blonde-haired beach girl, not a Korean man!

Tell us about joining Extreme Crew, your first crew and one of the world’s biggest.
I first started dancing with my friends Bboy Blue and Hoti while we were living in Busan City. There wasn’t any real Bboy crews in Busan at that time, there were a few hip hop dancers, but not a bboy team. At one point, other bboys in Busan City tried to organise a big crew of united dancers. At first they scouted Blue and Hoti who I was with, they soon realised I didn’t have my own crew so they said we could all join together. I wasn’t really that good at the time though.

What was it like to be a part of Extreme Crew?
That’s hard to answer because I’ve only ever know two crews, Extreme and SKB. I don’t really know how other crews train and work together. I do know that for both crews it was never ‘work’, just friendship – we’re all family.

In the beginning we had some problems in Extreme as everyone wanted different things from the group. But as we spent more time together, we understood each other more. We knew what everyone was thinking, or what they were going to say. We had to learn to work together to make things easier. You have to learn to understand your crew when you spend so much time together.

Bboy Blond by Mary Kwizness

How much did they help you become the bboy you are?
A lot! Having a crew to help you out is everything. If Extreme weren’t there for me, I wouldn’t have continued dancing after my time in the army, where I hadn’t been able to practice for two years, and had lost most of my dance skills. They said “You are Blond, you are my crew, just come back and enjoy dancing, you have to join us.”

What did Extreme Crew think of your plans to move to Australia?
Extreme is like a family, I spent half of my life with them and they understand why I moved to Australia. In the beginning they weren’t sure. “Why would you move there?” they asked, “There’s no crew there, we are here, why are you going there?” I still talk to them a lot and we still catch up on dancing. They’re happy and I’m really happy, too.

You’ve joined SKB crew since moving to Australia. Did this create conflict with Extreme?
Not at all. Originally I wasn’t thinking of joining or finding a new crew, but SKB reminded me a lot of Extreme. We’re all good friends and look out for each other.

Bboy Blond with SKB

How many hours a day do you train? How has this changed since you moved to Australia?
There’s been a big difference in my training since moving. When I was young and in high school, I was training all day. When I woke up, I would go to the studio and practice with others, heading home around 10pm. Since finishing studying, and spending time in the army, I’m noticing that I’m getting older because my body is feeling older when I train. I still pushed hard though, doing approximately four hours a day with one day off a week. Since moving to Australia I’m training two or three hours a day, four days a week. I try to practice as much as I can whenever I have time, I have to train harder with the time that I have here.

What do you think of the Australian dance scene?
Honestly, in the beginning, I was disappointed because the scene was very small. There were no big ‘jams’ and the bboys didn’t train very hard, they would just sit down and think most of the time. I would say “What are you doing? You don’t come here to think, you have to practice!” They’re starting to get there now, they train a lot more and a lot harder, and there are more ‘jams’ and competitions coming up.

A lot of the dancers and bboys here have the wrong idea. They blame the small scene on there not being enough sponsors or supporters. When we started in Korea, we had no sponsors or supporters either. Once we were at a really good level, we got more sponsors because they couldn’t believe what we could do.

Youngkwang Joung aka Bboy Blond

Is this the same for the world scene?
There’s a big difference now. When I started bboying, there wasn’t anything like YouTube which has made a big difference! Back then we had the internet, but not many videos, so it was hard to see what the rest of the world was doing at the time. I remember when I started to practice hopping air flares and I watched a Freestyle Session video with Bboy Ruen, I had never seen him before and I was in shock. This guy was doing the same thing I was! These days, you can watch anything on YouTube and see what this guy or that guy is doing all over the world – it’s easy to get inspired.

What do you think of dancers pushing to get sponsorships and trying to make a life of dancing?
You can find so many good dancers and bboys online. If these sponsors look at them, and then look at you – why would they sponsor you if you’re not at the highest level? Why would they give you money, or products, or clothes when they could give that to someone who can represent them better? Don’t blame sponsors for not supporting you if you won’t improve yourself first. Some seem to think if they got a sponsor they would automatically improve. Red Bull sponsors an ‘All-Stars’ team and you can see why – they’re amazing! A lot of dancers think they’re bigger than what they are.

It’s harder in Australia because we’re not so well known here, but it doesn’t mean you can’t work on your name and image here. Sure it would be good if you can go and represent internationally, but if you can’t because of money or some other reason, then work on your name in your home country. If you’re out there winning every competition, people will know you. I haven’t seen someone like Bboy Rush dance, but he has made his name big here that even I know him.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our interview with Bboy Blond, like us on Facebook so you don’t miss out! We chat with Blond on his time in the army, how he developes new moves, his advice to the younger generation of dancers and even marriage! But for now, enjoy a video showcasing Bboy Blond from our good friend, Frace Luke Mercado.

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INTERVIEW: Lucy Hope, fashion designer Unicorns in Love

In a land where the women are creatures, and friends are made with the ghosts of pets past, lives Lucy Hope …

Lucy Hope (right) with models wearing her collection.

In her own words, Lucy Hope takes wearable fashion to a whimsical place for anyone after a little magic in the everyday. With a keen eye for colour, pattern and texture, Lucy’s clothing range draws on her love and appreciation for all things art and design, and results in a proudly Australian one-of-a-kind collection you can’t take your eyes off! We chat to the Alice Springs-based designer to discover more about her fashion label and quirky style.

How did you get involved with fashion?
I never knew what I wanted to do at school. I enjoyed art and drama but had no interest for any other subjects. At 16 I left school to work in local fashion boutique, Mixed Lollies, where my eyes were opened to a world of fun and inspiring, art, fashion and design!

From that moment on I knew that my heart belonged to fashion: selling it, creating it, and buying it. I use to spend all my pay on designer clothes, shoes and bags and had to hide my mini addiction from my mum! I worked at Mixed Lollies for seven years, gathering ideas and skills that have helped me in my journey to becoming
a designer.

Where does your design inspiration come from?
All sorts of things inspire me: movies, music, books, people, other designers and more. I love fantasy movies such as Labryinth, Gremlins and The Dark Crystal, stories such as The Virgin Suicides, Lolita, The Lord of the Rings, and designers including Alice McCall, Lady Petrova and Alannah Hill. Often inspiration comes from something around you, and sometimes, it’s something from inside of you.

Describe your style.
I design very close to my own style. I like anything girly and sweet with a bit of a provocative twist such as wearing a full skirt of tulle with the tiniest of bra tops, or a summer dress that’s see through in the sun. I also like wearing things that make you feel like you’re from a different era or items you can pretend you’re a character from a movie or book in. I definitely theme dress, I like being a Unicorn Princess
right now!

Tell us about your latest collection ‘CASH’. What’s the story behind its development and inspiration?
CASH is loosely inspired by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. I hand painted its three prints myself which represent some of the best things about our country: fruit, flowers, and a 1950s silhouette. I designed the collection for the girl who goes to the fair in the day and the bar at night – a small country town girl with big aspirations. The shapes are girly and quietly sexy.

Where do you start when developing a collection? Describe the
design process.

I’m always playing around with ideas and different stories, creating the collection in my head and the girl who’ll embrace it. I start doing some drawings a year in advance and develop them, change them, leave them for a couple of weeks and go back and do more tweaking.

I look at different fabrics for colour inspiration and look around my world for different print ideas. I always design very close to a theme and then worry about how someone is going to actually get themselves into the piece when I’m creating the samples – imagination is first, practicality comes second!

Once the samples are made, I fit them to a model, tweak them, and continue this process until they’re perfect. Then comes the fun part, the photo shoot. This is when the overall idea, look and feel of the collection comes to life.

Which other creative people/fashion designers do you admire
and why?

I love Alannah Hill’s ladylike day pieces and vamp evening cocktail dresses, Lady Petrova’s innocent, girly and lush designs, as well as Alice McCall’s free spirit and amazing prints. I also love Jane Birkin’s effortless French glamour and beauty, and the pin-up intrigue that is Bridgette Bardot, Farrah Fawcett, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen and the Kadashians. I also love Blythe, a 70s fashion doll.

You’ve recently turned your business into a bricks and mortar store? What are the benefits of this and online shopping?
I have just opened up my boutique called Unicorns in Love. I was going to call the shop, Lucy Hope, but there are too many amazing labels out there to just stock my own pieces. Unicorns in Love is a celebration of the most beautiful things including like-minded designers and my own label, Lucy Hope.

As well as my own Lucy Hope label, I stock Lady Petrova, Fairground, Lime Crime, Keepsake, House of Wilde, Sretsis and other whimsical creations from small independent designers I love. There are a lot of great things about selling online and shopping online, but for me, nothing beats the magic of going into your local boutique, seeing all the pretty shop girls and trying on and experiencing beautiful fashion, fabrics and appreciating the store. You miss out on all that shopping online, it lacks that little bit of soul and charm you get
in store.

You’ve showcased your fashion pieces in Australian and the US. Is there a difference between the two industries?
I don’t see much of a difference because my customer is the same no matter where she’s from. She is girly, a little fickle, fashion forward, whimsical, romantic and doesn’t take life (or fashion) too seriously; she could be from anywhere or look like anyone. You just have to find your niche in a new place or country.

What’s one thing people don’t know about the fashion industry in Australia?
There are lots of things people don’t know about the fashion industry! I still find things out as I go along, but I think the main point is that people don’t realise how important it is to support local boutiques and stores.

The amount of great independent and local boutiques that I have known shut down around the country in the last 12 months is really scary and sad. Online shopping and mass market products really hurt the smaller labels. Even if you supported a small boutique online as opposed to buying into the cheap mass production, your money would be so much more appreciated.

What are you currently working on? What can we expect from you in the near future?
I’m working on my winter collection, ‘The Last Unicorn’. It’s full of magic, glitter, bold prints and sheer organza. It’s inspired by a 80s fantasy movie dream such as the scene where Sarah dances with the Goblin King in Labryinth. I’m also starting work on a small shoe collection and would one day love to design furniture, too.

What is it you love about fashion in general?
I love those moments you have in store, when there’s a dress that you’ve designed and you’ve put all your heart and soul into it, and then a girl comes in and makes a bee line for it and her face lights up. She tries it on and you can tell that you’ve made that dress for her and for that moment, when she falls in love and looks amazing in it!


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INTERVIEW – preview: Bboy Blond

As a bboy supporter, chatting with award-winning dancer Bboy Blond is a true highlight that brings intriguing discoveries and plenty of laughs.

With his original crew (Extreme Crew) he won the 2007 Battle of the Year and has since continued to impress the scene; recently taking out the 7 to Smoke battle at IBE held in Heerlen, Netherlands.

In this interview teaser, Bboy Blond tells us about his big move to Australia from Korea, Extreme Crew and SKB, his thoughts on the new generation of dancers and more. Full interview coming soon but, for now, enjoy the preview.

Stay ‘in the know’ with the latest news via our Facebook and Twitter.

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Interview: Leah Robins, The Minimalist Store

The Minimalist Store is my latest online addiction! It’s curated and run by designer, blogger and stylist Leah Robins, who compiles a unique and eye-catching collection of designer homewares for those that relish a minimal décor with a pop of colour and curios. In its own words, The Minimalist isn’t about buying less, but buying better. After months of indulging a love for innovative and minimal design through Leah’s online store and inspiring blog, I’m very excited to share this interview with you! Leah shares her thoughts on Australian design, the Minimalist Store, her inspirations and more. Enjoy!

Everyday objects by Oelwein

Leah Robins

Tell us about The Minimalist Store. What will we love here?

At The Minimalist Store, we source pieces for the home and office from Australia and around the globe. There’s an emphasis on unique, designer-made, small-batch and limited-edition finds. We love working directly with emerging designers and avoid mass production unless we wholeheartedly believe in the design and concept.

The collection that best represents what The Minimalist Store is all about is the Faceture collection by Phil Cuttance. Each piece in the collection — which consists of vessels, light shades and a side table — is made by hand using a single-use mould for an inherit value.

Faceture Vases by Phil Cuttance

You’re a designer, blogger and stylist. Do you have a preferred hat?

I don’t really have a favourite, they’re quite closely intertwined. I strongly believe you should do what you love and I am so incredibly lucky that I have the opportunity to be creative and share my passion with like-minded people on a daily basis. I am particularly excited by the styling projects I am doing at the moment for The Minimalist Store.

I live above my (small) design studio and spend many, many hours into the night there! I am definitely a night owl and I find it very hard to switch off sometimes.

The Minimalist

How did you make the move from stylist to online retailer?

The Minimalist Store was created out of a desire for something different for my own home and for the homes and offices of my clients. As a designer, I was feeling swamped by replicas and mass-produced pieces that had nothing more to offer than face value. I wanted to feel a connection to a piece I was bringing into my home and, I have found through The Minimalist Store and blog, that I’m not alone!

I have always wanted to curate my own store for as long as I can remember and, after putting it off and finding every reason not to, I finally realised that there will never be a perfect time to do it, so it may as well be now! A lot of people around me thought I was crazy, but the last few months have been an amazing adventure and huge learning curve. The opportunities and people I have met in such a short space of time make all the hard work and stress worthwhile.

Kiss My Neon print by Rk Design

Describe your personal style. Does it favour a minimalist approach?

My personal style has evolved many times but, there are some enduring themes that never seem to change. Quality over quantity is a big one. When it comes to colour, black and white is timeless – I love it in my home, I love wearing it and I love using it in my work. I have been told that I have a very masculine style. I love deep hues and straight lines mixed with earthy timbers and a pop of white. My personal style is reflected in each and every piece at The Minimalist Store. There is not a single piece I would not have in my own home. And that is one of my top criteria for everything we have. If I don’t love it, we don’t have it!

Sacks by Varpunen

What is it you’re looking for when curating products for The Minimalist Store?

I look for a unique style and something with a story. We look for pieces that are handmade with traditional materials and/or techniques used in new ways. We love bold styling and unique collaborations, and pieces made by artisans that would otherwise be hard to find or unavailable in Australia.

You put a great emphasis on sourcing products that come straight from the designer as opposed to being mass-produced. Why is this important to you?

As industrial designer, Dieter Rams famously said, “There is no longer room for irrelevant things. We have no longer got the resources. Irrelevance is out.” I think the question is why more people don’t feel that it’s important to surround themselves with pieces they love, that are unique, and that have a purpose.

My grandparents’ home was filled with special things that came attached to special memories. Their home didn’t change with trends and fads like homes do today. Everything they owned was built to last, or was made especially for them by an artisan. Those kinds of homes are the best in my opinion. They have a special substance and I believe we can all have that feeling in our environments no matter what your style or budget is.


What is it you love about a minimal design?

I think the world is a very busy and very cluttered place, and there’s something about minimalist design that I find very calming and serene. I love a space where there may not be a lot of ‘things’, but there’s a wonderful feel and perfect functionality. I love clean surfaces, clean walls, large blocks of a single colour, big open windows and high ceilings, too.

You source products for The Minimalist Store both locally in Australia and internationally. What do you think of the current state of Australian design?

Australia has a huge wealth of talent that’s under recognised. We have products at two ends of the spectrum available in the country right now: big name designers that can be found at big name retail giants; and replicas of big name designers at replica retailers.  At The Minimalist Store, we’re trying to create a platform to showcase emerging designers that often feel stuck in the middle of this spectrum.

Mae Engelgeer

What is your dream creative project?

I’m really inspired by the gorilla gardening movement and, despite living in a terrace house in Surry Hills NSW, with no lawn or garden space, I have managed to spread some greenery – little by little – along the footpath outside — shhh!

I’m also loving the ‘edible outdoor rooms’ that Sam Crawford Architects in Sydney have created. So my current dream creative project would be redesigning dead and under-used spaces into herb gardens, space for beautiful flowers and trees, and softening the sometimes harsh cityscape.

I have a huge passion for print, too. My father was a designer and printer and used to do typesetting by hand! So I would love to create a printed bodywork that incorporated the now outdated processes of printing that my father was taught.

Upside-down planters by Boskke

Where would you like to take your business and yourself creatively in the coming years?

I have many big ideas and they change daily! We have grand plans for a bricks and mortar store in Surry Hills which I want to be a collaborative and ever-changing space that showcases our unique products as well as works from students and young designers. I would love to help take ideas and concepts to creations, too. Urban renewal and urban planning is another great interest of mine.

You rock my world poster by Rk Design

Where do you turn to for inspiration?

I am strongly influenced by Scandinavian designers and stylists. My favourite stylist is Susanna Vento, who designs our Varpunen sacks. I also find inspiration simply by walking through the streets near my home. I love buildings, beautiful gardens, old books and time-worn furniture.

What other creative outlets do you indulge in outside of The Minimalist and your styling at Collective Design Studio?

I really enjoy gardening, not that I am very good at it! I am a very amateur DIY-er, I love giving old things a lick of paint — especially chairs! Is playing and designing homes on The Sims considered a legitimate creative pursuit? I believe it is, or at least should be!

Tableware by Seletti

Neo rubber bowl

All products and designers featured can be found at The Minimlaist along with Leah’s ever-inspiring blog.

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Interview: Fabrizio Maltese, international photographer/SFF Hub main attraction

This June, the Sydney Film Festival will play host to international photographer Fabrizio Maltese. He’s the star attraction at the new Film Festival Hub, which we’ve spoken about recently here. He’s renowned for his film-related photography, snapping some of the world’s most famous faces including Woody Allen, Tilda Swinton, Michael Fassbender, Jeff Bridges and more.

Locals can now revel in the Paris-born photographer’s mesmerising large-scale photographic portraits of iconic film stars and filmmakers at the festival’s Hub. Here we chat to Fabrizio about his work and inspirations.

Fabrizio Maltese

What is it about the Sydney Film Festival that appeals to you?

I’ve never been to Sydney or even Australia, so that’s exciting for a start. I love exploring new cities and new festivals and, on top of that, the Festival Hub is something new to the Sydney which is very exciting to be a part of.

Describe your photographic style in three words?

I would have to say that the right answer to this question should come from the critics, not the photographer. But if I had to choose three words, I would say: intimate, cinematic, and inquisitive.

How did you get involved in professional photography and photographing celebrities?

I started out photographing the student unrest in my native Italy in the 1980s. I would take portraits of my classmates as well as demonstrations in the street. I came back to photography later and started doing celebrity portraits because I was involved with the film festival circuit so, naturally, the most interesting people to portray were the filmmakers and actors themselves.

What made you pick up your first camera?

One of the strongest influences on my developing visual sense as a youngster was Woody Allen’s film Manhattan, with its gorgeous widescreen black and white photography by Gordon Willis, who also shot the Godfather films. I’ve it so many times and it never fails to impress. My interest in portraits was fuelled by the intrigue in exploring and suggesting the character of a person portrayed in a still image. Portraits allow the viewer to enter into the intimate space of the person portrayed.

Have you ever been star struck when photographing celebrities?

I work with famous artists for a living but I don’t tend to be impressed very much by the fact that they are famous. I wouldn’t be able to do my job, otherwise! Of course there are certain subjects whose work I admire more than others but, even then, for me it’s always very specific. I like the work of actress X in film Y, which makes it much easier to deal with, as I’m impressed with a specific performance rather than the person per se.

What are you inspired by at the moment?

I’m inspired by performances and the mechanisms that lead to a strong performance. The transformation of one person into another is fascinating to me and, as a photographer, a rich source of inspiration since I need to try and peel back the layer of performance to try and capture something of the person.

Is there a key element you try to capture in your work?

In the case of actors, specifically, I try to pierce what you could call the ‘performance barrier’, to get them to not perform as the ‘actor in public’ they so often seem to play when promoting a film. I try to find and put something of their own personality in the portraits I shoot. The results depend a lot on the person and their mood, which can be fragile or defensive, but I always try to establish some kind of connection between the person I’m portraying and myself, behind the camera, to capture something previously unseen that I can then share with the audience.

What has been your favourite photographic assignment to date?

I get this question a lot and each time my answer is different! I shot Gary Oldman in Venice last year for the world premiere of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I was a big fan of the novel the film’s based on when I was a youngster, so I was intimately familiar with the character Gary portrayed so well in the film. We talked a lot before the shoot, and then when it was time to actually take the pictures, things were very easy and straightforward. It was all very natural.

If you could shoot anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?

I don’t have a place-specific wish list but I do love to discover new places and absorb the essence of them. I love open spaces, abandoned places and metropolitan areas, they all have interesting textures and opportunities for unexpected compositions. Any place can become a new favourite place; it’s my job to quickly assess from which angle to capture it!

Fabrizio will photograph Sydney Film Festival guests throughout the event, adding new work to the exhibition daily.

Sydney Film Festival

Where: SFF Hub – Lower Town Hall, 483 George Street, Sydney 2000
When: 7-17 June, from 5-10pm
How Much: FREE

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Shawn Stussy’s S/Double studio

The Stussy name is synonymous with trendy ‘urban’ fashion, but its humble beginnings didn’t originate in apparel design. Creator, Shawn Stussy, admits the clothing brand was just a side project to his day job until it eventually got in the way!

Shawn Stussy started shaping surfboards to pay the bills and, in his own words, get by. He scrawled his name on his products till the 80s when the clothing corner of his company began to boom. Almost two decades later, Shawn retired from running his empire and returned to his roots – shaping surfboards. He’s currently preparing for the opening of his new ‘S/Double’ branded surf shop in Tokyo, Japan.

With the help of Seth Epstein in this short video, we take a sneak peek at Shawn’s recent hard work.

S/Double will have its pre-opening party on April 20

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