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The Death of Cool

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Desillusion Magazine, Sebastien Zanella talks about his new project and the influence of surf and skate cultures

by Fiona Killackey in Culture on 20 August 2013

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Wary that his newest project would be consumed for being buzz-worthy rather than genuinely good, French-born photographer and founder and editor-in-chief of Desillusion Magazine, Sebastin Zanella found a name for his multi-facet consultancy, The Death of Cool. While the name caused mixed reactions at CH HQ, we certainly appreciate Zanella's dedication to creating something original. "When we decided to do a small clothing range, calling it The Death of Cool seemed right," Zanella tells us from his space at the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair (CIFF) earlier this month. "Everyone is so consumed with trying to be the next big thing, or buying something not because it genuinely makes you feel a certain way. We wanted to create something more meaningful, in-line with everything that Desillusion stands for."

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Inside the sparse, yet purposefully-decorated booth, Zanella's influences and intentions are immediately apparent. Numerous copies of Desillusion's latest issue sat atop on a stand, accompanying The Death of Cool's small clothing range, as well as some of Zanella's favorite labels from the surf and skate scenes—brands like Loser Machine, Dark Seas and Poler. "So many surf and skate magazines have no soul, and so much of the business has become all about being the biggest and the most commercial. So we try to counteract that by looking at the artists and the true creatives for whom surfing and skating is just a huge part of their life," says Zanella. "A lot of stuff is aimed at the young guys coming into this and not necessarily at the guys—say in their 30s and 40s—who’ve been active for decades. People who live authentically and who genuinely love getting out there not because it’s deemed cool but because it’s just who they are."

Among the creative types Zanella respects is Adrian Lopez, founder of both Loser Machine and Dark Seas. "I was in Santiago years ago and people were talking about this amazing skater, Adrian Lopez, who was just 18 at the time. He was touted to become one of the greatest," recalls Zanella. "The dark side of life got the better of him and he became involved in drugs and guns and ended up doing time. When he got out he channeled that energy and experience into his [motorbike] riding, surfing and into these clothing labels. Everything about them is authentic. He's living the whole rough, hard, out there all-hours, skate-or-die lifestyle. The clothes reflect that and they're genuine."

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Another label found in the booth, chosen for its reflection of the Desillusion take on life is the Portland-based camping brand Poler, created by photographer Benji Wagner and Kharma Vella. Poler's earned the interest of many creatives in and out of the action sports industry by simply being carefree. Shots of Poler gear by people such as surf photographer Ben Gulliver have only added to its credible status. Zanella asks, "Are you on Instagram? You know #vanlife? The real essence of that lifestyle is what Gulliver is all about. He's out there, camping, living in his van, surfing, skating, filming—just doing what he wants. It's genuine. It's honest."

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At the opposite end of the space, propped up next to a neon Death of Cool signage light are two surfboards, the result of a collaboration between Desillusion and Pukas Surf. "We worked with Pukas Surf because its founder, Iñigo Letamendia, is an amazing guy. When he was young, in the Basque Country in Spain, he would dream of living in somewhere like California, but surfing wasn’t allowed where he was. Everyone was ruled under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco and when he disappeared, the hippie movement suddenly appeared. It just flooded in. He started making surfboards with some friends and lived in this commune they set up. He lost a lot of friends to drugs but he found a woman, fell in love and made his boards into a profitable business. He's now stocked all over the world but he still lives like the true hippie he is, out in some shack. You know, it's truly cool that a guy like that—who's made all this money and could rip off the culture—is still living just basically, as he always has; just him and his surfing. It's the way more people should be. There are not many people like that around."

As CIFF came to a close some days ago, you'll have to keep your eye on The Death of Cool Tumblr for what they're up to next. For a daily look into what else is on Zanella's mind, check out Desillusion Magazine online.

Lead images courtesy of Sebastien Zanella. CIFF image, camping image and surf image courtesy of trashhand, Poler and Pukas Surf, respectively.

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