The muses are heard. YO! MY SAINT is a three-pronged artistic endeavor incorporating music, film, and fashion. It’s not just a song, or a film, or clothes. It’s a project, and the culmination of creativity erupting from KENZO’s Spring/Summer 2018 collection. Linking them altogether is the underlying theme of muses – honoring, celebrating, and re-imagining the instigators and inspirations of creativity.
ABOUT THE VINYL
The limited-edition vinyl featuring the original song created by Karen O is now available for purchase from KENZO stores and KENZO.com
ABOUT THE PROJECT
“We talked about Sayoko being the historic muse, and Ryuichi, who we love and are obsessed with, being our modern muse,” says Humberto. The all-Asian cast runway show was groundbreaking and emotionally resonant. Backstage they were greeted by onlookers moved to tears at seeing such an inclusive statement. The torch was then passed to Yeah Yeah Yeah’s front-person Karen O.
READ THE CONVERSATION CLOSE
Did you all know each other before the project began?
Humberto: We’ve known Karen for a while now and had a friendship for about 12 years. She’s also been to a lot of our events and we’ve dressed her here and there.
Karen, how did you begin the process of working on “YO! MY SAINT?”
Karen: I met with Carol and Humberto and the team in February just to get a sense of the influences, themes, and ideas of the work. Humberto do you usually have a storyline with the collection?
Humberto: Yeah. We always have a storyline that at least helps us to start the mood board for the collection. Sometimes it's a made-up story. For this one in particular, we wanted this fictitious meeting of someone who's alive and someone's who’s dead and create this romance between the two of them, in this case Ryuichi Sakamoto and Sayoko Yamaguchi, the model. We came up with this storyline that obviously was made up on our end, and then we told that to Karen. Then she ended up writing a song about this. Then we were introduced to Ana Lily not too long after that and then we introduced Karen and Ana Lily to see if it made sense from both their parts. I think that's how Ana Lily got wrapped into the mix.
Karen did those themes immediately attract you to work on the project?
Karen: He also said, “There's a romance between a muse and an artist, but it doesn't necessarily have to be romantic. It could be platonic.” which I found quite interesting immediately. Then he showed me the photos of the guys and it just kinda sparked my imagination because they're Asian, they're both Japanese. In this oddball way because I'm half Korean, when I meet other Asian-Americans or Asians, that are just killing it in whatever field they're doing, I just get really excited! Maybe it's just because it's part of my identity growing up and stuff like that. When I thought of the muses for Humberto and Carol being this Japanese artist and model, it just sparked this other side of my imagination, which is the Asian melodrama that's within me. For the music, I immediately wanted to do melodramatic and romantic and with lots of yearning and high stakes – all that good stuff that's in any Korean soap opera. It just started flowing through me. Also, I wanted there to be something authentically romantic about it in some kind of slightly unconventional way. That's where my head went with it.
There's a romance between a muse and an artist, but it doesn't necessarily have to be romantic. It could be platonic.
Ana Lily, how do you see the power dynamic between the photographer and model in the film? There is currently a lot of discourse on this preying photographer figure, do you see "YO! MY SAINT" as entering into this conversation at all?
Ana Lily: Our culture is evolving; we still have photographers taking pictures of models to sell clothes, and we want to tell iconic stories that stir emotions. There are many people in the position of the artist, who have power, and have to choose how they treat their muse. In a creative collaboration everyone should feel safe and feel heard. And I will say that right now we're in a moment in history where we judge the art and the artist simultaneously. People have to think about their intentions. And if the film continues to ask that question and force the conversation, then I think that's a good thing.
Carol and Humberto, to bring this back to what Karen said, that she was thrilled to be part of something with Asians kicking ass. “YO! MY SAINT” brings this collection full circle because the show famously featured an all-Asian cast.
Humberto: Working on this collection, Carol and I were really in a proud moment. A lot of what we do at KENZO goes back to growing up, being kids in the '80s and '90s, and feeling like, “Oh, like, remember when it was, like, so not cool to be Asian.” Carol has famous stories about her parents packing Kimchi to lunch, and then her being so excited to eat it at school, and then her friends telling her, “Hey, your breath really stinks!”
Carol: And now it's the trendiest thing to eat.
Humberto: We think about where we were to where we are today. It's like these things where you grew up and you're so embarrassed of, and you're like, “Oh, mom. Don't bring food on an airplane. Let's just eat what's on the plane.” And now, we're adults and we're like, “Hell, yeah, we're gonna bring some Vietnamese food on the airplane. We don't wanna eat that crappy food on the airplane.” We're living in a time where we're super embracing our heritage, and I think that it's perfect that we celebrate the Japanese Heritage of the KENZO brand, but also celebrating us all as Asians. With that, we decided to do a show with a full Asian cast, which surprisingly, really hasn't been done before. I think it was exciting to just really embrace this collection in its pure form, and then working with Karen and Ana Lily to then take the collection to the next level, and them together telling the story is exciting to see how this season all links together.
Ana Lily when you were coming up with the visuals of the film, did the clothes inform you?
Ana Lily: It did. It was one thing I was worried, because you don't want to just be advertising clothes and everybody had to wear these clothes. But somehow it was so organically part of the story because it's a story about a photographer taking pictures of people modeling things, and so it was just seamless. I don't think that every film would work that way, or story, but it was just in the fiber of the storytelling, and the clothes. Shirley Kurata, the stylist, was so great in just putting it together with the locations, and the vibe of each set-up. I'm very into color palettes and how things are look and pop. I just feel like the clothes look so good. Clothes are so huge. In my films, the costumes are a major part of the character, and so that was another cool thing here, is obviously the clothes are important on many levels. It helped us immediately get into the personality of who these girls were and how they're different.
Since her career began, Karen O has consistently proven herself to be among the most diverse, influential, and transformative artists in music. As frontwoman of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, she has inspired a generation and played an integral part in what is commonly regarded as a revival era in rock. She has collaborated with musicians The Flaming Lips, Santigold, Trent Reznor, David Lynch, The Swans and has contributed multiple scores to critically acclaimed films. Amongst those were original compositions for 2009’s Where The Wild Things Are and 2013’s Her. In 2014, she released her debut solo album, Crush Songs. Most recently, Karen O featured on composer Daniele Luppi’s album MILANO alongside collaborators Parquet Courts.
ALEX ZHANG HUNGTAI
After retiring his project Dirty Beaches, Zhang has been focusing on explorations of improvised music, Free Jazz, and his new role as a composer. His newer compositions predominantly works with saxophone, synthesizers, piano, computer audio augmentation, and percussion, furthering his research on ritualistic music of liminality. Besides his solo work, he is also a member of a Free Jazz/experimental trio with Portugese minimalist/architect David Maranha, and Free Jazz Drummer Gabriel Ferrandini in Lisbon. Zhang currently works as a composer for film soundtracks, along with acting in independent films.
Jessica is an actress best known for her roles as ‘Coleen Wing’ in the Marvel/Netflix series IRON FIST and as ‘Nymeria Sand’ in the hit HBO series GAME OF THRONES. Jessica recently appeared alongside Nicholas Hoult and Laia Costa in Drake Doremus’ film NEWNESS, and will soon be seen in Will Eubank’s deep-sea thriller UNDERWATER alongside Kristen Stewart and T.J. Miller.
Her film credits include: STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS; BALSA WOOD for Ochromi Films and BFI; and SUN NEVER SETS. Last year, Jessica wrote and starred in the short film THE HEART OF THE FOREST, which was recently awarded the prize for Best Original Script at the 2017 Asians on Film Festival.