Photographed Creative Ingenue Taj Reed swaggy apartment for Groom Raidsrs/ Very Good Light.
“You get one life. I want to do it all.”
Photographed GQ’s Grooming Lord Benjy Hansen-Bundy for Very Good Light.
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“To call my own morning routine a ‘regimen,’ is a stretch,” says Benjy Hansen-Bundy, the 27 year-old assistant editor at GQ, with a smirk. We’re sitting inside one of Conde Nast’s brightly lit conference rooms talking about the style bible’s second annual Grooming Awards, which launches online today. “It’s really about speed and efficiency from getting out of bed and out the door.”
Ironic, coming from GQ’s very own Grooming Lord, whose very job is to thoroughly test hundreds of grooming products and determine which are worthy of ending up in its pages. As the guard of the brand’s sacred grooming closet, Benjy takes products very seriously. “At GQ, the real question is how guys take care of themselves and how much time they want to put into their regimens,” he says. If any brand wants to get past the iron doors of this magazine, they’ll have to go through Benjy’s rigorous tests.
For the Grooming Awards, it took Benjy and team hours upon hours of research and methodical testing to eventually crown winners in each respective category. “We’re going to do the research for you and then tell you real reviews on which products are best for you and how to apply them,” he says. “What’s great is that we’ll have high-end options, affordable and boutique options. It’s a large scale operation and many people are involved.”
After going through so many variations of soaps, deodorants, shampoos, brow gels, you name it, it makes a lot of sense that that he’d opt for more of a minimal approach when it comes to his own routine. After all, everyone needs a well-deserved detox or cleanse from the constant grind of work. In Benjy’s case, introducing foreign new products onto his face and body on the daily has become a process he’s had to endure. Yes, there’s actually a dream job out there that involves testing products for a living.
“I wash my face just with water sometimes and don’t use a cleanser before bed, but I do moisturize.” He’ll shower with Dr. Bronners and lather that from head-to-toe, but doesn’t dare use shampoo. “I’m suspicious with shampoo, actually,” he says. “It makes my hair fluffy and stringy and hard to style. I was looking into shampoos and thought they were a lie. There’s a happy medium with clean hair and using it to deplete your scalp of its oils. So I’m very wary.”
It’s this minimal – and skeptical – approach that’s served Benjy well. On this warm fall morning, Benjy’s face is matte but seems moisturized. His hair is coiffed back, tidy and imperfect, with a Dove Men + Care defining pomade, a brand he says is “no fuss” and affordable. He’s clean-shaven, his face symmetrical like a movie star’s, which means even in a plaid shirt, knit tie and jeans, he looks sartorial. If there ever was a quintessential GQ editor, this is him, personified. Which has taken some time to achieve, Benjy admits. Before he started at the magazine as its editor-in-chief, Jim Nelson’s assistant, he worked at the independent news publication, Mother Jones.
After traveling the world post-college at Vanderbilt, Benjy found that his calling was writing and editing. Now it’s all about grooming at GQ. So how does one land such a dream job? Benjy suggests a couple of things. “Read a lot,” he says. “And get your voice out there online. Write for places, you probably won’t get paid at first, but keep getting your name out there. Then, try to get social followings. If you’re looking at place like GQ, I’d suggest getting to know the masthead and having the people on the bottom getting to know you. Then, start emailing people and ask them about their jobs. This job requires tenacity.” And expertise around pomades, apparently.
Words by David Yi
Photographed and Styled Young Paris for Highsnobiety.
Read below for more info on Jay-Z’s protege:
Published 10/25/ 2016
“You can imagine how theatrical our house was, there were colorful costumes everywhere,” says Milandou Badila via FaceTime. He’s relaxing at a friend’s apartment ahead of a Redbull Music Academy performance in Montreal. Badila, who goes by the stage name Young Paris, enjoyed a childhood that spanned three continents and was shaped by constant exposure to the arts. His father, who passed away in 2011, was a dancer, choreographer and musician as well as the co-founder of the National Ballet of Congo, the country’s first internationally recognized dance troupe. The ballet’s formation came at a critical point in Congo’s history and helped create a sense of unity in the country during the tumultuous time of independence in the 1960s. Paris’s mother was equally immersed in the creative scene; she worked as a playwright and professional dancer. The latter career choice led her to become acquainted with Paris’s father. “She was invited to dance at my father’s studio [in Paris]. Long story short, they fell in love and had seven kids. He had three before he met her so I have 10 siblings in total,” Paris shares.
When the rapper was around seven the family moved from Paris to upstate New York. Still, the change in environment did little to uproot Badila’s familial ties to Congo, where his mother and father would take him to visit between return trips to Paris. This cross-cultural range of experiences soon influenced Badila’s taste in music. As an artist, his interest in divergent genres creates a unique soundscape that blends tropes of traditional hip-hop and trap with EDM, afrobeat and afrohouse.
“I was involved with a lot of different music styles, ” Badila explains. “I grew up with a lot of traditional African music from Salif Keita to Papa Wemba, so most of my young life was African music. Then, growing up in America, I became interested in hip-hop, I wanted to rap like other kids. As I got older I started going to festivals and I’d hear EDM and trap so I just started mixing all of those different sounds. Now seeing what’s happening with afrobeat it’s created another lane for me because my music already has a lot of those elements.”
In this last year alone global megastars like Drake have turned an eye to the African continent, tapping artists such as Wizkid for chart-topping features. As a result, a new permutation of African-influenced American hip-hop is emerging. It creates a prime opportunity for someone like Paris, whose first-generation experiences position him in the crosshairs of two cultures. He has essentially emerged as a human bridge between traditional hip-hop and the music of the African continent. Following in the footsteps of his mother and father, Paris has created a platform that uses popular culture and performance as a tool for injecting African histories into Western conversations. In 2016, he released the African Vogue EP, which spawned its own hashtag on Twitter specifically dedicated to highlighting the accomplishments of the black diaspora.
Photographed Camp Flog Gnaw Festival for Highsnobiety.
Read below for more info on the best of the fest:
Published 11/18/ 2016
Last week, over 40,000 packed into Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for Tyler, The Creator’s two-day music festival and carnival, Camp Flog Gnaw. The robust line-up included expected names such as Odd Future affiliate, The Internet, whose funk-inflected set took flight on the wings of Syd the Kid’s diaphanous vocals. Between sets guests grabbed brews and cocktails from beer gardens, and sobered up on food from Randy’s Donuts, Action Bronson’s “Fuck! That’s Delicious” food truck and more. Braver attendees also split their time between the over a dozen carnival rides capable of unsettling even the strongest of stomachs.
Other highlights included an impromptu EarlWolf reunion from Tyler and Earl Sweatshirt and a timely performance of “FDT” (Fuck Donald Trump) led by surprise guest YG. Lil Wayne and DJ/producer Kaytranada closed out the first night while the second night saw experimental hip-hop group Death Grips, and ScHoolboy Q end the festival on a high note on the Camp and Flog stages respectively. It’s nearly impossible to pick favorites in a situation where offerings run the gamut from Ms. Badu to Death Grips, but nevertheless, here are a few of the sets that seemed to really electrify the audience.
Tyler, The Creator
When you’re performing at your own festival you kind of have to kill it, especially when an automated audio reel of your voice is the first thing that greets guests upon entrance. Outfitted in Golf Wang FW16, Tyler, in his typical self-depreciating manner, proceeded to entertain the shit out of the crowd while reaching back to his early repertoire and also performing more current offerings.
Though the rapper claimed to have no desire to get political, he undeniably hyper-aware of the current climate, inviting guests to put their phones away and truly connect with a rare, carefree moment. Tyler also ended the set by expressing excitement at the number of black youth he saw in the audience before inviting YG to perform “Fuck Donald Trump.” It seemed to be just what people wanted to hear as thousands screamed the hook with the kind of abandon only alcohol, free Ferris Wheel rides and churros can produce.
The perpetually lit sibling duo that is Rae Sremmurd did not disappoint. The two commandeered the stage with the help of the Sremm Life Crew, whipping the crowd into an energetic frenzy with songs like “Black Beatles,” the single that spawned the #MannequinChallenge that has swept through social media faster than the bubonic plague wiped out 60% of Europe’s population. And in these times, the irony of lines like, “up like Trump,” were not lost on the audience, but in the spirit of the turn up, the party didn’t stop.
Chance The Rapper
Not only did Lil Chano from 79th spend most of his set running full throttle from one side of the stage to the other, he also made it a point to dive from his perch directly into the arms of the waiting crowd. Outside of that, Chance also brought a few friends to the stage – namely D.R.A.M. to help out with “Broccoli” and ” Francis and the Lights to for “Summer Friends”. The rapper came into 2016 still on the cusp, but co-signs from heavyweights like Beyonce, Jay-Z and Kanye West, alongside the positive reception to projects like Coloring Book, have certainly secured him as a voice to be reckoned with in 2017.
The turnout for Kaytranada’s set seemed to be comprised primarily of ultra-dedicated fans; that was likely because his time slot overlapped with Lil Wayne. That didn’t stop the Haitian-Canadian DJ from instructing those who came through to, “move mufuckas.” And let’s be honest, if you can’t dance to a Kaytranada set you might not have a soul. Highlights included old favorites like Kay’s version of Janet Jackson’s “If” and Azealia Banks’ Pharrell-featured “ATM Jam,” as well as selects from 99.9% like “Glowed Up,” which features another stellar performer, Anderson. Paak.
Erykah Badu delivered her set in the way only Erykah Badu could. She channeled the feelings of disappointment and fear so many of the young audience expressed into a rather eloquent speech about the drawbacks of media and politics in general. She also looked fly AF with a feather-detailed nose ring and a necklace that was nothing short of epic. Her actually performance was a heartfelt retrospective on years worth of creativity in the music industry. It’s certainly refreshing to see a legendary artist still be so enthusiastic about interfacing with her audience.
“That shit gave me goosebumps” – this is how a friend described Anderson .Paak’s set. Considering this particular friend can be a bit of a snob (no shade) that’s high praise. The California-born r&b crooner opened his Sunday night performance with “Come Down” before calling in the calvary (not that he needed one) in the form of Mac Miller and Domo Genesis, who was also part of Camp Flog Gnaw’s lineup.
.Paak’s music has an emotive quality that bleeds through even when you’re just taking a casual Soundcloud listen, that quality is infinitely more powerful and moving live. Like Tyler and Earl, .Paak seemed to relish the sheer amount of brown faces he saw in the crowd, taking time out of his set to comment on how satisfying it was to know so many POC turned out to support the festival.
Photographer: Bukunmi Grace
Photographed American luxury Menswear Designer Michael Bastian for Very Good Light.
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“More guys should use a makeup brush,” says Michael Bastian, the New York menswear designer, defiantly.
We’re hanging out in his West Village apartment in his charming abode, which is decorated with quirky art pieces he’s collected over the years. On one wall sits a painting of a feckless young man staring off into the distance, a piece Michael found on the sidewalk one day. On another, there are dozens of framed paintings and photographs that he’s collected over the years. The decor, one would say, is perfectly New York.
In his quaint bathroom – which is completely spotless, btw – he’s applying a product called Mally onto his face. He stares into his mirror, his hand swirling with a makeup brush to his pores. “I don’t understand why more men don’t use a brush, it’s like a paint brush, nothing unnatural about it,” he says. He tells me he discovered the wonder product while on a shoot for GQ. A makeup artist had been using it on his face to prep him for the shoot. Almost instantaneously, he saw a difference. “I was like, what is that and I need that now!”
Now in his early fifties, Michael, who’s the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s 2011 Menswear Designer of the Year award winner, is finding that he’s more confident than ever. That is, with or without that miraculous powder, Mally.
Growing up in Lyons, NY, a suburb between Rochester and Syracuse, he says he was always dreaming about a bigger life in the city.
“At 13, I was one of those kids how had a subscription to GQ,” he says. “I lived in my own head.” Though he had dreams of fashion, it was during this time when he found he was “completely a super nerd.” In college, has says, he still wasn’t self-assured.
Halston Z 14 conjures pleasant memories, Michael says, of the early 80’s. It was well before he ever stepped foot in the city, a time when Ronald Reagan was still president. “I wanted to be someone,” he remembers saying. “I want to be that cool guy who was in New York City, going out every night, living that lifestyle.”
Years later, he moved to New York City and soon enough found himself living that life. He worked at Ralph Lauren in the home department then at Tiffany in the table top division. Then, he made it to one of the top positions in the entire industry: fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman. It was there when he started to think about going off on his own.
“I thought I was going to start a chino line,” he says. “But then someone told me I had to go all in. I was just going to do this on the side while I was still working. I was designing the line and Brunello Cucinelli (an Italian menswear brand) offered to produce it. So I quit my job and my mom cried saying, ‘how can you be so reckless with your career?’”
It was at this point, where he started gaining personal confidence in himself. “In my 20’s I was insecure but it was in my 30’s I started to accept how I look. Some people peak in their teens, I peaked in my 40’s.” It’s in his 40’s when he started gaining weight, his “weird gray hairs” sprouting. “My grandfather had white hair,” he says. “He was a handsome guy with blue blue eyes and super tanned. His whole philosophy was the whiter the hair more tanned you had to be.” Which is why he says he loves the sun. “I know I’m doing something bad with the sun so have to make it up with lots of beauty and grooming products.”
And after a successful brand and career, Michael says this about finding confidence: “Be aware that people peak at different ages,” he says. “Don’t think it’s all about the 20’s and that that will be your most gorgeous years. Some people are in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 70’s. If you think you’re insecure, you’re not alone and better days will come. They did for me.”
Words by David Yi