C California Style

Butler answers Selby's questionnaire.
Building Block's form-based white leather bag.
A collection of Building Block bags, "designed to emphasize the usefulness of a product while disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it."
Model and actress Kiko Mizuhara in a Sretsis dress and Miu Miu shoes.
Iris van Herpen's Thorn shoe.
Fred Butler in one of her prototypes.
British designer Butler's workbook.
Todd Selby. PHOTO: The Selby.
A selection of Van Noten's threads.
Dries Van Noten doing a fitting in his Antwerp studio.
Sisters Kimberly and Nancy Wu, the designers behind the Downtown L.A. accessories line Building Block.

Snap Happy

by intern

Orange County-born photographer Todd Selby points his lens at the fashion industry in his latest coffee table tome, unearthing the creative processes of designers and their inspiring environs.

When Todd Selby decided to photograph his fabulous friends and other creators, in situ, for his new blog, The Selby, he didn’t expect things to take off quite so quickly. But within three weeks he was getting invitations from artistic types across the globe eager to have their homes and work spaces captured by Selby’s special sauce of documentary journalism.

To be interviewed by The Selby goes like this: The former Details photographer shows up at your studio, chatters away, gets you comfortable, then takes pictures of your products, and all those objects that just say you: clothes, jewelry, tchotchkes. At the end of the session he hands you a Proustian questionnaire of sorts—hastily drawn on a sheet of paper in which he asks you, the subject, to draw a garden or answer a question such as, “What are the six best things about black?” You sketch in your answers, creating a time capsule of the day that is both a snapshot and a collaboration.

From those first weekly blog posts came professional gigs galore: the now-defunct Selby blog in T Magazine, projects with Japanese magazines, columns with Le Monde and The Guardian, and book deals such as the cult favorite Edible Selby and his latest, Fashionable Selby ($25, Abrams). It’s a global jaunt through the studios of some of the most innovative people in the fashion space. Dries Van Noten opens the doors to a former warehouse filled with a sea of fabric bolts and impeccably arranged samples; Iris van Herpen unveils her experiments with seamless latex, laser-cut textiles and flexible dresses; model/actress Kiko Mizuhara shows off her unusual collection of vintage accessories and professes her love of Tex-Mex.

“When I was growing up in O.C., there were a lot of strip malls,” Selby remembers. (The Brooklyn resident is currently house shopping in L.A.). “I always liked quirky things, like the Rutabegorz restaurant, and there wasn’t much of that in O.C., so I think it drove me in that direction.”

Fashionable Selby falls into that eccentric vein, but it’s also an eye- opening look at process. “There are so many big personalities in fashion,” Selby says. “But I wanted to show another side of the velvet curtain”—whether that’s how Isabel Marant doesn’t have a fit model and builds a collection on herself, or that Fred Butler, the Brit designer behind Lady Gaga’s blue telephone helmet, uses layers of leftover acetate scraps, vinyl and glitter to make her ’60s-style earrings.

Nancy and Kimberly Wu, the Downtown L.A. designers behind the minimalist accessories line Building Block, had heard a few things about Selby before he approached them, such as he “wears cat T-shirts” and gets to “see inside the lives of unique people around the world,” Nancy says.

What surprised them the most about the photographer who’s hung out with Karl Lagerfeld and Pharrell was just how casual it all was. Selby arrived without preamble, no scouting, no entourage, just himself and his camera.

“We loved how down-to-earth and excited he was,” says Kimberly. Within two hours Selby had taken images of the light-filled loft of the former industrial designers (who previously worked with Honda and Nike), their carefully chosen greenery and their funky, shape-driven handbags and shoes. “What feels right are designs that are self-evident in their construction and beautiful sim- ply because of the honesty of their material and forms,” says Nancy. The group hit it off so well that they collaborated to launch a special series of tassels to decorate cameras for The Selbz, Selby’s capsule collection of camera accessories, which are sold at Colette in Paris and MAC in San Francisco.

“Building Block’s work is incredible and unique,” marvels Selby—an emblem of what the book became for him. “This book is very personal. I learned about the work and process that goes into all these things.”

Photographed by Todd Selby.
Written and Edited by Elizabeth Khuri Chandler.