CR’s Class of 2019


We live in a time of ambition. Information has never been more accessible, nor has the will to access it, and abstract it be stronger. Children can see their idols performing on TV, and—after years of training—conceivably work to one day share the stage with them. And yet still, the tiny rate of artistic and creative success remains incredibly challenging to breach. Talent is not the only prerequisite in our world of excess and overstimulation. There are, but, of course, those changing the way we think and how we view the world. Here, CR highlights those few—the standout creative class of movers and shakers that are each doing interesting things in their craft, and paving the way for a brilliant new year.

Marina Testino, Multi-hyphenate

The niece of Mario Testino and daughter of Art Partner founder Giovanni, Marina Testino has been a part of the fashion world since her birth—but that doesn’t mean she accepts every facet of it without pause. Since her graduation from Parsons School of Design, the Peruvian-Spanish creative-slash-model has been challenging the norms of the industry, particularly when it relates to purpose and waste. Last year, Testino wore a single red suit for two months straight to comment on what she calls „conscious consumerism,“ while, more recently, her fashion brand Point Off View recently launched its first sustainable capsule collection: a scarf line collab with Stone Shop and Korean artist Minku Kim. „There is a social pressure to have new things rather than to invest in what we think looks and makes us feels good,“ she explains to CR. „I want to push for positive change in the fashion industry through creative projects and the things I believe in.“

Poppy, Performer

„I was born on—and still live on—the Internet,“ says Poppy, the singer, songwriter, dancer, and real-life avatar of a pop star, whose dollish inflections are as controlled as her videos are viral—which is to say a lot. After several different incarnations in her artistic life, Poppy’s persona today is a cocktail of animated Barbie glamour and abstract fine art—a specific style she’s fine-tuned through her popular YouTube channel and on-stage (you can catch her currently on the second leg of her Am I a Girl? tour). But there’s more than just simulated simulations up her digital sleeve. Recently, at Sundance, she debuted her first-ever augmented reality role as the star of A Jester’s Tale, a 12-minute hologram experience, and her new single, „Voicemail,“ the first follow-up to her last album, is proof that neither sky nor cyberspace is the limit.

Jeremy O. Harris, Playwright

Jeremy O. Harris was simply following instructions when he applied to the Yale School of Drama. Writer Amy Herzog told him he needed to take his playwriting more seriously, and O. Harris, who had been bouncing back and forth between art residencies after dropping of college, agreed. Two years later, Daddy—the piece that got him into the graduate program in the first place—opens at the Pershing Square Signature Center in New York City this week. The show follows Slave Play, O. Harris‘ critically lauded, professional debut at the New York Theatre workshop this past fall, and prefaces his thesis production later this spring, Yell, which he describes as about „being in a white institution and being told I’m excellent by white institutions.“ Three plays in one single year is an exorbitant amount of pressure for one person, but O. Harris, who just recently worked with Telfar Clemens for New York Fashion Week, says its a well-appreciated: „I was in LA for six years just wanting to be exhausted by work and nobody had anything for me to do. Right now, I’m drained emotionally and physically, but I’m filled spiritually.“

Nina Agdal, Model

Up until recently, Nina Agdal has been mostly known for her Sports Illustrated swimsuit body and Danish supermodel face, which has been seen everywhere from CR to Carl’s Jr. ads, for whom she famously devoured a hamburger on the beach for a 2013 Super Bowl commercial spot. Now, after nine years behind the camera, she’s taking the creative reins through her own video channel. Part makeup tutorial, part talk show, Quirky is the New Black features Agdal alongside Taylor Ballantyne as the two tackle personal problems, muse about cultural events, and yes, even make prank phone calls. Crafting the episodes from start to finish behind-the-scenes (producing, shooting, editing, etc.) is a nice shift for the model, who says she plans to dive head first into more broadcast projects in the coming months.

Jin Kay, Dylan Cao, and Huy Luong of Commission, Fashion Designers

Despite hailing from different disciplines, the three men behind the new fashion brand Commission—Jin Kay, Dylan Cao, and Huy Luong—had an immediate connection to one another when they first met. It was at a mutual friend’s party a year and a half ago in New York, and something inside of them just clicked, says Kay, who previously designed ready-to-wear for Gucci and Prabal Gurung. Cao, had just left his job at R13 creating shoes, and Luong, a photographer, was freelancing on projects for the likes of Michael Kors and Ulla Johnson. The three bonded over intersecting cultural experiences: 30-year-old Kay was born in South Korea while the Cao, 27, and Luong, 29, are both originally from Vietnam. The shared memories of watching their parents dress for work in ’80s Asia inspired the trio to start Commission. „We reference a lot of our parents‘ images, but then we reinterpret them in our own way,“ says Kay, whose mother was a doctor. „His mother dressed very similar to my mom, who was working at an office, and Hui’s mom, a business woman that owned a restaurant,“ adds Cao. Spring/Summer 2019, the brand’s debut line, homages these moments and contemporizes them with hints of humor: an asymmetrical cut references a skirt hiked up for motorcycle functionality.

Tia Jonsson, Model

Well into the start of her career (after having already worked with Heron Preston and Rihanna), Tia Jonsson says she’s more nervous now than ever to arrive to set. „I felt lucky to be doing it when I first began. Back then I was just having fun,“ she tells CR. I still am having fun, but now I know more about photographers and artists on set that I admire so much, so there are more nerves.“ Originally from the Bay Area, the 21-year-old part-time NYU student, part-time artist was spotted on Instagram by Anti-Agency and then signed thanks to her cerulean blue eyes and long blonde hair marked white at the front by vitiligo. Having had the skin condition since birth, Jonsson says she’s always liked the pigmentation, because it gives her a trademark look, but has mixed feelings about her representation: „I feel like I shouldn’t be a spokesperson for it because it hasn’t been a burden on my life.“ After a year break from school for modeling, Jonsson returns to her studies this semester, where she’ll balance call sheets with class credits. What she’s most looking forward to in the coming weeks? Free time, if any.

Tommy Dorfman, Actor

Twenty-six-year-old Tommy Dorfman has just returned to New York. He’s been living in LA for a year and a half but his new role in Jeremy O. Harris‘ Daddy—a tug-of-war play about intimacy, identity, and the art world—has brought the actor back to the Big Apple, where he previously studied at Fordham University’s drama program. Since then, Dorfman has appeared in a number of series, mostly notably the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, pitching his own projects, as well as become a public advocate for LGBTQ rights and the disenfranchised. “Representation is extremely important,” he says. “And sometimes, I do have to sacrifice opportunities to pursue a larger agenda. It’s complicated, because there’s a version of me that says ‚Fuck representation, I just want to be an actor.‘ I’m trying to find some balance between supporting this community, participating in the community, finding a larger voice for representation, while also protecting myself and still having enough mystery as possible to be seen as other things for work.”

Aquaria, Performer

Earlier this week, Aquaria, whose out-of-drag name is Giovanni Palandrani, celebrated her 23rd birthday in an emerald embellished body suit on The Blonds‘ Fall/Winter 2019 catwalk show. After snatching the crown for the 10th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race last year, the drag performer has been no stranger to the fashion world by any means, having since worked with the likes of Jeremy Scott and Nicola Formichetti. Of course, it’s creative transformation that the one-man-show does best—hair, makeup, the works. As she explains to CR: „My [work] is all about being my true self, and I’m very excited to take my drag to the next level this year and share it with the world.“

Siobhan Bell, DJ

Back when it was still cool enough for it to be a little dangerous, Siobhan Bell began DJing in East London. Her first club night, Cherryade, became so infamous she founded a cult-favorite line of lavender and bubblegum colored hair extensions under the same name. Soon, the former-Atlantic Records A&R assistant found herself DJing for the Boiler Room and Miu Miu and at festivals alongside Skepta and Virgil Abloh. „Yeah, I guess my sets are quite hype,“ she says with a smile. Now, Bell is jumping into uncharted territories: music production and self-producing her own European tour, kicking off right after her pit stop at the Grammys. „I’ve DJed so many gigs, that I just wanted to package all those experiences and bring them to everyone to enjoy.“

Flynn McGarry, Chef

At 16, Flynn McGarry moved to New York with the intent to start a restaurant. He had been cooking for six years previously, although, to be fair, his first formal experience wasn’t until the age of 12 when an LA chef threw him onto a meat station after the cook didn’t show. After pop-ups around the U.S. and even in Taiwan, the culinary wunderkind opened up his very first permanent eatery, Gem, in the Lower East Side last spring. A year in, though, McGarry says he’s still learning new things everyday. „There’s always something broken, or needs fixing, or something to deal with but also that’s enjoyable, because it truly never gets old,“ he says. „Because we’re changing constantly, it’s hard to say what’s a definitive ’new thing.‘ Everything just gets better every single day.“

Alton Mason, Model

Before Alton Mason became the first black male model to walk for Chanel, he was dancing for Laurieann Gibson in LA. As a part-time assistant, part-time protégé to the legendary choreographer, he learned how to keep a beat, and even performed alongside Diddy, Lil Kim, Jadakiss, and Mase at the 2015 BET Awards. Four years later, Mason’s still moving his feet, but on the catwalk. Following a series of milestones—from starring in Gucci’s first all-black campaign to backflipping down Louis Vuitton’s Fall/Winter 2019 men’s runway—he has eyes on a new prize: music production. „For for 2019, I’m going to be diving into it intensively,“ Mason tells CR. „I’ve always loved spoken word and poetry, but now I’ve decided to finally put a beat behind it. I can’t wait to come up with melodies and really just fell in love.“ The model admits that he’s still very much a student in the art of making music, but once he gets it going, he’ll certainly start working on the corresponding dance moves.

Gray Sorrenti, Photographer

Despite the magnitude of her father’s fashion photography, 18-year-old Gray Sorrenti says she never felt pressure from him to follow in his creative footsteps. “Growing up, our home was about total freedom of expression,” she explains. Born and raised in New York City, Sorrenti got her hands on her first camera at the age of 13, and soon found herself capturing candid portraits of her friends. She’d interview them with abstract questions and cut and paste the pieces together to make a zine-like project. In the years since, Sorrenti has continued this intimate approach to her photography, capturing serene moments from everyday life that somehow appear more like fantasy and reality. In her last year of school at the Professional Children’s School, she’s continued to explore this hobby, working on projects with Loewe while finishing homework for her class on constitutional law. Her next step? “Moving image,” she says with a wink, hinting at a forthcoming documentary releasing sometime in the near future.

Sarah Sutherland, Actress

Sarah Sutherland never thought she would return to LA, where she grew up, before moving to New York to study drama at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. But an audition, while visiting home, resulted in an eight-year-role as Catherine, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s character’s daughter in the HBO series Veep, an absurdist satire about a fictional Vice President and then Head of State. With the series‘ final season premiering later this spring, Sutherland, who balances her time filming with writing and volunteering at a creative writing mentorship program for formerly incarcerated youths, calls the show’s conclusion „profoundly bittersweet.“ Up next, the actress has a slew of projects she’s excited to explore, including an inspirational trip to Japan, attempt at starting pottery, as well as a shift in the kinds of roles she takes on. „I definitely want to focus on dramatic work in the wake of doing a comedy,“ Sutherland says. „A lot of the actresses I most admire seamlessly transition between both. I really want to be able to establish myself as not as a brand or a personality, but as an actor.“

LaQuan Smith, Fashion Designer

„When you think LaQuan Smith, you think fashion!” a voice harkening back to New York’s Ball Culture recently boomed over the speakers of the designer’s Fall/Winter 2019 runway show. Soon enough, models paraded out—some in threesomes, others stomping alone—all decked out and tucked into curve-hugging bodysuits and skin-tight minis. It’s a style that the 30-year-old Queens-born designer has cultivated over the last few years through his namesake fashion line, converting fans out of everyone from Rihanna and Beyoncé to Tom Ford and Kanye West. Last season, he launched his first capsule collection with e-retailer ASOS, in which he revealed denim pieces for the first time. It’s what Smith calls a major step in the expansion of his brand. Now, he has his eye on greater sights: heels. „I’m working on creating my own shoes,“ he says. „We’ve made samples for the runway in the past, but to be able to produce them on a mass scale is what I’m working towards in 2019.“

Mei Kawajiri, Nail Artist

Balenciaga, Kim Petras, and Playboi Carti may seem like an odd arrangement, but they all owe thanks to Mei Kawajiri for their nails. Born in Kyoto, Japan, the 35-year-old artist has became as famous in the fashion world as she is on Instagram for her nail designs, which are oftentimes unbelievably intricate (and unmanageable in real-life) creations that make even the simplest of tasks, like texting, a near impossible feat. CR’s own resident manicurist, Kawajiri navigates both the extreme and the understated chic, with a careful eye and a steady, if not colorful hand. Catch her at a fashion week or with Bella Hadid at an event near you.



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