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August 24th, 2006
Thu, Aug. 24th, 2006 07:18 am

I'm always fascinated by the things and people that Japanese women in their 20s list as their cultural "keywords". They're often culty, semi-underground Western artists, film-makers or designers who end up better known in Japan than in their home countries. I'm thinking of people like Harmony Korine, Christopher Nemeth, or United Bamboo's Thuy Pham. Without getting all Marxy on your ass, it makes me wonder whether there isn't some secret style council, a little cabal occupying a chic attic room in the Tokyo diet building. "This year it's Anastase!" they proclaim, and the printing presses start rolling with profiles on Anastase, his cats, his favourite art books, his latest Little Red Ridinghood and Alice in Wonderland-inspired outfits...

I thought I'd ask Fumiko Imano, who knows Anastase quite well, about this Franco-British 27 year-old. Who is he, and how did she end up playing the music for one of his fashion shows, accompanied by two of his sisters?

"I met him in Paris, Palais de Tokyo Crash magazine exhibition in 2002 when I was visiting to help Marjan Pejoski show," Fumiko tells me by e mail from Japan. "But he doesnt remember. He was showing his work there. Officially, we met at boutique. Just said hello. didnt talk... He mailed me through Minimix magazine (Eko Sato mag French x Japanese) [Momus notes: great little free magazine, I used to read it religiously when I lived in Paris!] where he found my works in. We started mailing eachother. That time, I was in Japan for while, and he said "Come to paris, you can live with us!" [Momus notes: wow, impulsive!] So I went to Paris in 2004. It was nice flat just behind Amelie's cafe in Blanche... I still love the place."

"He was doing haute couture collection that time. It was his project. He had made hand silk painted t-shirt collection, fresh vegitable accessory collection, stained tights, animal bags, and porceline tea set with drawing. He got ANDAM prize in 2004 (Bless got it at the same time) so he started his own ready to wear collections in october 2004 with his collaborator Olivier. I played keyboad, his little sisters played noise, and oboe as a band called Foulard. I made acccessory for this show. He directed music too. We did for autumn winter 2005 2006 too. His clothes theme was Alice in Wonderland. Very girly and colourful. Red Riding Hood, and Oz the Wisard, and then Napoleon last time. Its not only cute but propper made high quality clothes. I would say."

"He is very smart," Fumiko concludes. "He dreams, and make it happen. Magical one. Very lovely fun person. I love making maki sushi for him."

I asked a Paris artist friend about Anastase, and got a more nuanced opinion. "Yes, I saw an exhibition in Paris, in a little gallery which had just opened on the Rue St Claude in the Marais, last winter I think. At first I was very seduced, but later, the second time I went, I really looked at how it was made, and I was less enchanted, I sensed a bit too much the presence of the photos he'd worked from. Nevertheless, he's very good at composition, in my opinion that's his best quality. The drawings are immediate, like confectionery, there's nothing to discover, no second reading. Fashion-fashion, really."

I suddenly remembered at this point that I'd also seen that exhibition in the Marais, in early May 2005, at Galerie Baumet Sultana. While it made a strong impression, and the drawing was very good, there was something a bit "fashion-fashion" about it.

"The transition from drawing to designing is tricky," says Mark Holgate of Style.com, as if overhearing us. "Just look at Julie Verhoeven's short tenure at Gibo."

Holgate has an interesting description of Anastase's debut fashion show: "...pitched somewhere between Cyndi Lauper eighties (puffball miniskirts, cropped bomber jackets) and rave culture nineties (jacket emblazoned with an acid-house smiley face, straight-out-of-Goa tie-dye silk jumpsuits). Anastase also added in a dance theme, with crop leggings, tulle skirts, and satin ballet slippers... The oddness of this esoteric mix was only heightened by the presentation itself, which included a trio composed of Anastase's sisters Kimbilly Nina and Tamara Anna and an artist friend, Fumiko. One played clarinet, another keyboards, and the third took the mic, occasionally giving herself the odd, desultory tap on the head to add a muffled beat to the music."

Sylvie Lambert, a writer for Les Inrockuptibles, quotes Anastase as saying: "Everything started with eight pages of fashion illustrations I did for the magazine Crash in 2000." This, explains Lambert, intrigued the fashion world. Big brands like APC, Wendy & Jim and Calvin Klein asked him to do campaigns for them, Beck commissioned an album sleeve. (It seems to have been replaced at the last minute by the Marcel Dzama's sleeve for Guero.)

"But for drawing," Lambert tells us, the young artist keeps things pretty basic. A piece of A4 or A3, a pencil, everything marked by an imagery which is sometimes (still) academic (hands, eyes), sometimes also strangely disturbing (his drawings are copied from magazine photos), finally closer to Beardsley or Tracey Emin than Shrigley or Sechas."

Some facts about Charles Anastase:

Touche a tout, he's even made a tea service!

He likes McDonald's and the Pompidou Centre because most parisians hate them!

His clothes are more readily available in Japan than in the West.

He's now based in London.

The new Chara video has some suspiciously Anastase-looking drawings in it.

His MySpace page almost manages to cheat the site's endemic ugliness.

He has a website.

He looks like this.

Anastase's company is called A Frog With A Cigarette Ltd, reports The Hindu, with surprise.

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