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The Art of Discovery with Renaissance Hotels

Photographer Jeff Vespa releases an intimate book of portraiture with the support of Renaissance Hotels and The Creative Coalition

by Largetail in Culture on 31 October 2014

Hotels, Jeff Vespa, Renaissance Hotels, The Art of Discovery, The Creative Coalition

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This past week we attended the release of Rizzoli's "The Art of Discovery"—a collection of intimate portraiture featuring many of Hollywood's most recognizable faces. Each image and the accompanying text was captured by photographer Jeff Vespa, founder of Verge, co-founder of WireImage and video collaborator with artist Alex Prager. We were guests of Renaissance Hotels—production sponsors of the book and the launch event, who have taken us on previous immersion into the hotel's cultural offerings and partnership. Together with Renaissance Hotels and arts advocacy organization The Creative Coalition, Vespa constructed a beautiful and inspirational book that masterfully showcases celebrities as we've never seen them before.

We spoke with Vespa to gain insight on the collaborative work, and how he got 100 of Hollywood's best to open up. "The initial idea was there from the beginning," he shares with CH. "Robin Bronk from The Creative Coalition approached me with the project, Renaissance Hotels wanted to do a celebrity photo book that was about discovery as the theme. Their brand’s motto is 'Live life to discover.' Together we came up with the idea to ask actors about significant moments of discovery in their lives. Those 'aha' moments that changed them or gave them a new perspective on their life or career." Vespa did the majority of the interview directly after he shot the images. He notes, "Some of the conversations became pretty philosophical. It is not a question they ever get asked so we knew we would get stories no one had ever heard before."

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My favorite compliment about shooting someone is when they look at the photo and say, "That’s me."

As for his personal process, he says, "The shoots were very simple, just a white, grey or black backdrop, possibly a chair or stool and one or two lights. It is a portrait book in the classic sense, the photos are all about the person, not about the environment we put them in." Vespa wanted to capture each individual as who they are, and nothing more. It lends the book a personal touch. "My favorite compliment about shooting someone is when they look at the photo and say 'That’s me.' That is always my goal." And it was a goal he accomplished in all 100 photographs.

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Vespa also employed communication technology in order to involve the book's designer along the way. "A big part of the process was Nancy Rouemy, the designer of the book. She helped art direct most of the shoots but she lives in NY and the shoots were in LA. So we used join.me and I shared my screen with her." As he shot, she immediately saw the images and was able to offer instant feedback. Even before that, Rouemy would preselect reference images before each shoot—and she would work with Vespa on plotting out the book's pacing. As the conclusive piece in the partnership, the two would pare down all the options and spend hours editing to land the right match.

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With discovery at its core, the book delves in the world of its subject—something only Vespa could do. "Most of the actors featured in the book are my friends, so that made it easier in all aspects. We set up a studio at my house; already there was an intimacy and privacy that everyone felt comfortable with, asking the question was just an extension of that. Everyone felt very open to sharing, I think we were able to get personal moments that show who these people really are. They were not promoting a project, this was about us creating something together," he concludes.

Many stars turned out for the book releases, to honor the work of a visionary creator and his partners, Renaissance Hotels and The Creative Coalition. It was another wonderful event in the hotel's array of programming.

"The Art of Discovery" is available on Amazon for $31, where a percentage of proceeds go to benefit The Creative Coalition. At the Art of Discovery website a contest is running now through 14 November 2014, where users can submit their own story of discovery and enter to win a chance at a photo shoot with Jeff Vespa in Palm Springs.

Images by David Graver, video courtesy of Jeff Vespa

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Handcrafted Jaguar-undi Bags

Vibrant textiles sourced from across Latin and South America beautifully unite through a common thread

by David Graver in Style on 31 October 2014

Bags, South America, Textiles, Hand-Stitched, Latin America, Accessories, Family-Run, Heritage, Start Ups

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At this year's Pitch Night, we got hands-on with the bags of Jaguar-undi—a family-run start-up that sources traditional textiles from various regions across the Americas (Latin and South) and stitches them together into unique handcrafted bags. Their aim isn't just to create quality accessories, they also want to demonstrate how symbolically beautiful it can be when the disparate fabrics from multiple heritages unite.

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Federika Tovar, one of the family members behind Jaguar-undi, tells CH about the company's origins and inspirations: "Our family has been collecting Latin American handicrafts for the past 30 years. We have traveled and visited many indigenous communities in Venezuela, Panama, Colombia, Peru and Mexico. We developed an eye to spot excellent manufacturing and design," she says. "My grandmother worked very closely with the Wayúu tribe, a nomad tribe that moves in the Peninsula de la Guajira located part in Colombia, part in Venezuela, helping to establish workshops and promoting that knowledge of their handicrafts be continued from one generation to another." From there she notes, "Jaguar-undi goes directly to the source. We buy directly from different communities that produce the handicrafts and therefore travel extensively throughout Latin America. We also attend handicrafts fairs and shop at local markets."

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"We have our own workshop in Venezuela where we re-create and enhance our products. We work as a creative team that approves design ideas by consensus. We also work directly with other workshops in Colombia and Peru, providing the materials to be used for each product." On the subject of unity, Tovar explains that "we believe that our ancestors shared a land without borders and were united by a common thread. We unite traditional skills with innovative design. Our products are a result of a creative collage that unites harmoniously a variety of textiles, producing an ideogram of Latin America United. We try combining a variety of references, disciplines and influences to produce something new out of something old, our products go through a process of re-contextualizing and re-invention."

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For the family, inspiration stems from more than just textiles. "Diana Vreeland coined a phrase 'The eye has to travel.' We find all elements that define a culture to be inspirational. We like to search for inspiration in contemporary art, local food markets, colors, popular arts, pre-Colombian art and mythology," Tovar shares. "We try to discover the soul behind every object that has been handmade by an artist. Picasso was strongly influenced and inspired by African art that led him to evolve and discover Cubism. We are inspired by all things that reflect our Latin heritage and the story behind every object that makes it unique." This inspiration is evident in their bags—where attributes unite for an attractive product with a heartfelt message.

Jaguar-undi is currently in the process of setting up their e-commerce site, which will be in operation this December. Until that time, the NYC-based brand notes that they can "cater to anyone interested in any of our products via email or personal rendezvous."

Images courtesy of Jaguar-undi

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Jones Snowboards' Mountain Surfer

Surf the white winter wave with this handmade, binding-less piece of equipment

by Graham Hiemstra in Culture on 31 October 2014

Handmade, Innovation, Snowboarding, Snowboards, Sports, Surfing, Winter, Wood

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It's safe to say no name is as linked to backcountry snowboarding as Jeremy Jones—so much so, his name is rarely seen without "Big Mountain" preceding it. Under his eponymous brand, Jones Snowboards, he has designed and released a wide array of heavy terrain-specific snowboard designs. Though his latest offering (and undoubtedly most unconventional) is what's caught our eye this time around. The Mountain Surfer is a snowboard in its purest form: a binding-less plank of wood for surfing deep powder. At 4’6“ (139cm) in length, it's the result of design collaboration with legendary California surfboard shaper Chris Christenson, and offers a new experience on snow, whether that's charging the steep and deep in Tahoe or a backyard stash in Vermont.

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In recent years, a slow, nearly silent resurgence of riding binding-less snowboards—called noboarding—has been underway. As one can imagine, riding sans-binders takes serious skill and practice, leaving those involved in the movement few and far between. Jones' Mountain Surfer aims to make the act of returning snowboarding to its surfer roots more accessible. Two metal foot hooks and a foam pad improve board control and traction, making it easier to ride and able to be ridden in less than waist-deep conditions. Simply remove the hooks for the full snow surfing experience.

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The all-wood construction certainly limits the board's tech aspects, though Christenson's craftsmanship still shines through. Drawing on inspiration from speed-focused surfboard shapes, he designed the Mountain Surfer with a contoured base with a slightly tapered, subtle concave channel in the body and near the tail with a rounded convex spoon nose. The reverse camber (rocker) aids in keeping the nose aloft in powder while the sizable width helps create a loose, surfy feel. The handsome, Austrian-made Mountain Surfer, goes for $349 at. For more information, visit Jones Snowboards.

Images courtesy of Jones Snowboards

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