Our interview with Stephen Ajao, founder of Uneasyness

Our interview with Stephen Ajao, founder of Uneasyness

Giulia Pacciardi · 4 years ago · Style

When we talk about emerging brands, in a constantly evolving and almost saturated market like the streetwear one, we always do it with a certain amount of skepticism.
For each brand that borns, there are already two that fight to make the difference.
But this is not the case with Uneasyness, the brand founded by Stephen Ajao, who with three collections to his credit, and one that is about to be born, knows what he wants and how to tell it.
With his three past collections, Elusive Beauty, Lost in the World and Altered Existence, he started a work that, as he told us, focuses not only on the product but on the desire to convey the entire culture, vision and philosophy that lies behind his collections.

To find out more about Stephen and his brand, all you have to do is read our interview and take a look at his collections below.

Tell us about yourself, your background and everything you’ve done before you decide to start your own brand.

I graduated as a surveyor then I joined the university and I changed totally: I did nursing and then I entered the Faculty of Medicine. Then I had an existential collapse and I quit. 
At that time I was 20 and I started to make my own trips to understand what I wanted to do and I started to work as a product designer. Having done technical studies, I was pretty good at drawing on the computer and I was mainly involved in 3D prototypes. The 3D market was a super emerging area, the situation was quite dynamic only that, even there, after a year I got bored because not having the opportunity to use my creativity was like being tied to a chair. 
Being always a great fan of clothes as a joke my mom told me to let our family seamstress make some shirts. I follow her advice and so I started making these unique pieces.
I was just back in Mantua and with my friends, I was organizing electronic music events and a guy came into our group who at that time opened a shop in the city center and had almost all avant-garde brands. Fatality, during an evening he liked one of my shirts, he asked me who it was, I told him it was mine and from that moment he started to take my shirts and sell them.
So for no reason I told myself that if I made it work in Mantua I could make it work in Milan where I could work on my own brand and so, from now until tomorrow, it was.

The world of streetwear is constantly evolving and the market is becoming more and more competitive, what do you think are the elements that can determine the success of a collection or, more generally, of a brand?

It’s hard to say. For what history is all about, I think it’s essential for a brand to try to convey a certain kind of culture, philosophy or a certain kind of vision that makes sense and differs from others.
I think that to be successful it is essential that people can perceive everything that is outside the brand that is not the product.

So all its contours, there must be a foundation at the cultural level, a common vision.

Yes, then it is more complicated because now if you do a good job of marketing or product placement however the brand is known, but it is something that distorts all that is the world of streetwear. 
In my opinion, in order for a brand to thrive over time, it is essential that there is a direct relationship between the people who work in the brand and what they transmit and do on a cultural level. What I want and hope to do with my brand is to do something innovative, and being innovative does not always mean doing new things. To be real because, in the end, the person who buys you doesn’t just buy because they like your garment, but also because of the philosophy and what the brand conveys.

Which are your main sources of inspiration and how does your creative process work?

Well the inspiration is a bit strange, I always look at everything that can be considered new.
My first source is definitely the music I am the one who wakes up, has breakfast, brushes his teeth and already has the track he wants to listen to in his head. 
Then the story, I read a lot of books that tell stories of artists, designers, stylists, etc.. stories of products, stories of how the products have entered our daily lives. Electronic music, paintings, more or less this. 

What happens when you start creating a collection? 

It’s like I’m feeling things in my skin, in my stomach and trying to give them the widest possible sense.
I always start by wondering about something, the question turns my head all day and I start looking for answers, it’s my starting point.

The idea of Lost in the World, which is also Kanye West’s song, was born at a time when I was doing a lot of graffiti on the street, I had started to study the history of graffiti a little bit, of the crews that interested me more like the Berlin 1up and the biggest like Banksy, Bansky not really (laughs). The best known of our era and then being one who has a lot of existential dilemmas I said to myself “well, in my opinion, the idea of hooding at night and going to write on the walls, means that you have to feel right alone in the world. From this thought came this collection. At that time there I always listened to the album Oxymoron (Schoolboy Q) and on the cover there’s him all blindfolded, at first he was famous because he was dressed old school, then I went to see what were the five items most used in the ’80s, when the movement started, and I came up with the idea of giving lustre back to these garments, to make him upgrade at the level of fabrics and quality, to give him my skepticismcut, that classic verve that must have Uneasyness, and so the collection is born. 

Is there an iconic character, from the past or the present, that you would like to see wearing your clothes? 

I don’t know, so on the spot I’d tell you that maybe it’s not there because maybe it doesn’t exist yet.

And a character that maybe reflects your style and that is perfect for your creations?

Maybe Moodymann, because even as a personality I feel that he’s quite akin to mine, that he’s done a super interesting cultural work, he’s in the first line of those who launched electronic music in the mainstream world, that he’s always been on the edge of the media scene, he almost always plays with his face covered and he’s one who care about nothing and when he plays he never follows the artistic directions but he plays for the pleasure of playing what he wants. 100% anarchist. He could be one I’d like to dress. 

Future projects? 

Well, making great things with the brand. 
Then I’m a graphic designer, I do graffiti, tags and I’m in love with the letters I really like the art of the word in every sense, so my idea would be to make an exhibition of my graphics on a large scale, let’s see if I can do it, it certainly won’t be this year. This is my strongest parallel project at the moment. Starting to do something with the company I’m working with, Wonderglass, with which I measure myself with the best product designers in the world so I think it will take some time. 

Our interview with Stephen Ajao, founder of Uneasyness
Our interview with Stephen Ajao, founder of Uneasyness
Our interview with Stephen Ajao, founder of Uneasyness
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One Shot: light in the shots of Sasha Elage

One Shot: light in the shots of Sasha Elage

Laura Tota · 1 month ago · Photography

One Shot is Collater.al’s column that delves into the work of a photographer starting from a single shot, describing his style and imagery. This episode’s guest is Sasha Elage, a photographer of Russian origin and naturalised French citizen.

Sasha Elage | Collater.al

Self-taught photographer, he does not use corrective methods for his photography: his incredible photos are taken with any corrective device, simply exploiting natural light and playing with the simple over-/under-exposure of the images or with flash and colored gels.
What is intended as a photographic error, soon becomes an peculiar stylistic code in Sasha’s research, thus making light the protagonist in the shot and in restoring consistency and personality to the Sasha Elage is a photographer of Russian origin, a naturalized Frenchman. Self-taught photographer, he does not use corrective methods for his photography: his incredible photos are taken without resorting to any corrective device, simply exploiting natural light and playing with the simple over-/under-exposure of the images or with flash and colored gels.

What is captioned as a photographic error becomes an unmistakable stylistic code in Sasha’s research, thus making light the undisputed protagonist in the shot and in restoring consistency and personality to the portrayed subjects/objects.
Where humans are present, faces are deliberately hidden or unreadable, reducing the face to a simple reflective surface for a light that blinds the observer.
The goal is to recreate images characterized by a strong aesthetic sense, transforming the photographic act into a game, a form of entertainment in which Sasha challenges the human eye; his photographs break conventions and scenographic conjunctions through optical tricks and a combination of inventive minimalism.We asked Sasha to tell us about one of his shots to explain his research and share it with us.

1. Describe your photography research in three words.

Inventive, persistant, Implacable 

2. How did you get there? I mean, did you cross any other approaches that brought you where you are now?

I’ve always wanted to be a painter, when I was a kid I did a lot of painting but somehow stopped at the age of 11 and discovered photography late at the age of 24 and I knew right away that this is what I want to do all my life. I use the camera to transform reality rather than just record it (like painters do..), I overexpose with natural or artificial light, underexpose, use colored flash ( Since my early days in 2004, back then I was experimenting by placing a pink plastic cd case in front of my flash to get this effect, nowadays colored gels are supplied in kits with most flashlights.) I also use long exposure and a variety of other techniques..I am also not ashamed to create beautiful images, as beautiful art is almost a taboo nowadays. I like the idea of exploring all the possibilities when I’m working on something and looking at it from every angle to make sure I haven’t missed a photo; I enjoy surprising myself.
I never use digital software to edit my photos; the creative process takes place within the camera, which is very very important to me. I have complete faith in photography, and I believe that using filters and Photoshop is betraying photography

3. What photographers inspired you?

To be honest today I am more inspired by music, nature, and the people I love; my mother is my greatest inspiration.

4. Tell us the process behind this shot and if there’s any funny fact to tell our audience.

As I previously stated, I frequently use overexposure in my work to alter reality; this photograph was taken in a dark covered street in Dolceacqua, Italy in 2021, it’s part of an ongoing series called “And God created light”.
The sun only penetrated the street at one point, so I asked my woman to simply look at the light and overexposed the photo to create this effect; my way of enticing the viewer to imagine a face rather than seeing it.
Many people believe that this photograph has been digitally altered, that I used a powerful flash, or that it was taken in a studio; I even shared the making-of video on my Instagram so that they would believe me.

Sasha Elage | Collater.al
One Shot: light in the shots of Sasha Elage
One Shot: light in the shots of Sasha Elage
One Shot: light in the shots of Sasha Elage
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Domenico Matera and the essentiality of memories

Domenico Matera and the essentiality of memories

Tommaso Berra · 1 month ago · Photography

The series of shots taken by photographer Domenico Matera goes straight to the heart of a life’s memories. A native of Basilicata, he chooses the Lucanian Calanchi and its network of cracks in the clay to reconnect with a sphere of memories.
Matera wants to reconnect with an idea of landscape that creates continuity in memories, because it brings us back to a condition of essentiality that is that of memory, untainted by the present and our eyes on the contemporary.
The bare landscape of the photographs is a metaphor for this search for essentiality, also favoured by the choice of white monochrome, a fog over memories that unifies and envelops them.
The landscapes and horizons thus become more and more distant, a borderline can barely be seen, while the alternation of wide shots and close-ups confuses the ideas of what is micro and macro. A world to be reconstructed through memory.

Domenico Matera and the essentiality of memories
Domenico Matera and the essentiality of memories
Domenico Matera and the essentiality of memories
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Dialogica: the poetry of the metropolitan microcosm on Instagram

Dialogica: the poetry of the metropolitan microcosm on Instagram

Laura Tota · 4 weeks ago · Photography

A crossing point par excellence, the subway represents the converging point of hundreds of worlds that, in the time of a journey, share a space and time infinitely limited compared to an entire existence.
Yet, especially for those who daily travel by subway, this microcosm becomes extremely familiar, a concentration of recurrences, rituals and rhythms often automatically experienced.
Always lighted by the same light, during the opening hours every action repeats equal to itself, victim of a potentially eternal repetition: an alienation interrupted only by some careful looks, able to grasp the magic (and even the irony) of everyday life.

Thus, the photographic image becomes the ideal tool to capture the true essence of the subway, actually made of hundreds of small details and moments of pure poetry or fun.
To this thousands of posts are dedicated on Instagram, the social that more than all allows us to share immediately the fleeting of a unique and blinding moment in the monotony of always equal days: nothing like Instagram contributes to creating shared visual imaginaries of places, events or people.
In this first appointment, Dialogica wants to put in dialogue two Instagram accounts, which find their habitat in the subway par excellence, the New York one, although driven by two extremely different researches.

Subwaycreatures  is a serial profile in which the author Rick McGuire collects photographic contributions and videos of thousands of authors able to capture the funniest and bizarre moments that occur on the subway. The page, active since 2013, has quickly become a social phenomenon and represents one of the most important collectors of images on the New York City subway.

No attention to the composition, the framing or the colors: this creates an independent visual research that does not fear the so-called “ugly” and distances itself from a predefined vision both from a formal point of view and content

The real protagonists of each contribution are in fact only the “creatures” (almost fantastic) populating everyday the subway. Each carousel collects images and/or videos linked together by the same theme: scrolling the feed, it will not be difficult to come across the best and weird disguises met in the subway, or a selection of dogs transported in bags or plastic bags (by law, on New York subways only “handbag dogs” can travel).

On the other hand, the Subwayhands profile is driven by a totally different aesthetic, it’s a project conceived and created by photographer Hannah Ryan who dedicates this account to one of the most communicative parts of our body: the hands.

The hands tell in an honest and sincere state of mind, they do not lie and they speak more than we can imagine, and that’s why Hannah began to photograph them.

Hands shaking, hands flicking, hands holding objects, gloved, cured or neglected hands: every hand becomes a world, a synecdoche that explores feelings, relationships, situations and stories and becomes the kick-off to invent fantastic stories.

In this shots, there are poetry, care and formal homogeneity, they are taken at a close distance, enough to clearly suggest the place where you are (thanks to a cool artificial light that does not hide, indeed, emphasizes the scene), but not too much to break the magic of the moment.
With discretion and delicacy, Hanna photographs individual hands, couples or groups of hands, without ever revealing people’s faces: the intent is to suggest stories, to portrait the universality of proxemics and everyday life poetry.

As the hands holding the sign “Will you marry me?” tell about the personal story of a marriage proposal (ended with a yes from the bride, as we learn from the comments to the post), so other older posts testify to epochal events such as the #blacklivesmatter protest or even the pandemic period during which the hands were protected by gloves or other devices not to come into contact with the surfaces.
The eye of the photographer, whether a professional or an amateur, returns a varied and heterogeneous cartography of another world living underground, far from the rules and social distinctions that regulate the surface world: all these looks, also invite us to look more carefully at the details during our trips.

Dialogica: the poetry of the metropolitan microcosm on Instagram
Dialogica: the poetry of the metropolitan microcosm on Instagram
Dialogica: the poetry of the metropolitan microcosm on Instagram
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The lightness of bones in Anne-Laure Etienne’s photographs

The lightness of bones in Anne-Laure Etienne’s photographs

Laura Tota · 3 weeks ago · Photography

I’ve always wondered if we’re really aware of the power that images have over us. We are daily overwhelmed by them, yet, when we deliberately choose to use images, or to create new ones from scratch, something magical happens.
A clear example of this, is the self-portrait practice, often used as an instrument of imagination, self-analysis and identity reflection (as for example the dramatic self-portraits by Francesca Woodman) or of civil, social and existential investigation (as for example the female investigation perpetrated by Paola Mattioli) almost as a balm capable of leading to a greater oneself and the outside world awareness.

When the lens meets the tangible matter of one’s body, it actually detects much more: it highlights fragility, fears, awareness, messages in the bottle that take shape through the image itself.
And this is exactly what lies behind the shots of the “Tissues and bones” project taken by the French photographer Anne-Laure Etienne.

Since 2017 and for 6 years, Anne-Laure has self-portrayed in the places of her land, beautiful unspoiled landscapes in the South of France. In a moment of great psychological and physical weakness, she found in photography a means to reconfigure herself representation and express her discomfort.
Her body imprisoned in the tissues, becomes an evidence of a sense of psychological claustrophobia from which to get rid. The bones mentioned in the title of the project constitute the most secret part of our body, the one that resists time and even death, and for this reason they are the most authentic testimony of our intimate essence. What initially seems trapped, compressed, suffocated, soon changes: from constriction cage, the tissue becomes placenta, a soft protection that protects, but does not inhibit, light veil that caresses, but does not force.

The lightness of the bodies, immortalized in aerial dances or moments of physical effort in tension, testifies to a flowering, a rebirth, just like the landscape in which they are captured. In this sense, the natural context is never a simple backdrop that poetically frames the scene, but constitutes a dialogical and evolving element, painted with bold and energetic colors. Thus, the geography of space gives way to a geography of self-representation.

The subsequent healing allowed her to photograph friends and relatives, giving them the opportunity to enter into deep contact with the most hidden part of themselves and Nature.
With a few scenic expedients, Anne Laure’s creativity and artistic background allow to reconstruct suspended microworlds in which the real, symbolic and imaginary dimensions meet: so tulle fabrics, voile and organza dialogue with the textures that Nature offers to careful observers, creating levels of reading and games of light and shadow in which the body creates soft and light lines.

In this project, there is a message of joy, hope and strength: like the one in the photo where, wrapped in a fabric of clouds, Anne Laure stands proud and down to earth, but with her gaze turned to the sky she seems to be part of.

Anne-Laure Etienne | Collater.al
The lightness of bones in Anne-Laure Etienne’s photographs
The lightness of bones in Anne-Laure Etienne’s photographs
The lightness of bones in Anne-Laure Etienne’s photographs
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