Dazed 100 x Calvin Klein party curator, Kanye collaborator and Creative Director Nate Brown talks us through the elements that go into the best night of your life
A creative director is an elusive but strong force. Just looking at New York-based creative Nate Brown can tell you that: he’s collaborated with everyone from designer Alexander Wang for his tenth anniversary show and Kanye and Jay Z for the Watch the Throne tour, establishing himself as a curator of pretty banging parties and events. One such is the Dazed 100 party, held last month in collaboration with Calvin Klein in Bushwick, New York, to celebrate the mavericks of the fashion, music and art worlds.
We recently announced this year’s list, which catalogues the creatives shaping contemporary youth culture. Trans activist, actress and last year's winner Hari Nef, Korean trap star Keith Ape, emerging actress Lily-Rose Depp and photographer Petra Collins are among those chosen for this year.
Descending on Brooklyn’s 1896, Luka Sabbat, Arca, Stella Maxwell, Frank Ocean and Virgil Abloh were some of the names in attendance at the warehouse rave. Kelela, the R&B anthem-maker, D100 contender and Dazed Spring issue cover star played host.
Though you might not have attended the party, you can keep up to date with the creative forces shaping the year ahead right here, and continue to vote for your favourites. If that’s not enough, Nate Brown explains the process for hosting his most mind-blowing of parties.
KNOW YOUR AESTHETIC
“One of the things that is always a big inspiration to me has always been the energy behind the simplicity and authenticity of parties in Berlin. I like taking that construct and leaving all of the attention to the people there, and the lifestyle as opposed to trying to outfit the space with something that would essentially overshadow what the purpose of this whole event was. It was to honour the Dazed 100 and all those unique people.
I think that trying to keep the inspiration to raw energy is important. The colour palette is just black, white, stroboscopic and to me it felt very reminiscent of Berlin, or some sort of underground club or warehouse party.”
YOUR GUEST IS YOUR MUSE
“In Bushwick, you find yourself in the presence of some really dope DJs and people. We wanted it to look inward to the people and not so much on the set design and space itself. I think what we see in these people are reflections of where we are at in culture, Eespecially with performers like Arca, who is so music-based with his energy and focus. Not that I would ever speak for him, but what I see as a bystander, as a third party is that when he gets up there and plays, he just wants you to think about what's happening musically.
I think when I first heard that he was going to be one of the DJs, that sort of helped me to start thinking about making this something that could fit an Arca performance. So we got this amazing light designer Tobias Rylander, who had done all the performances for the XX. He understands the delicacy and importance of the music, especially in the industry that’s like excess, excess, excess and everyone wants flashing lights and colours.
With Kelela and Arca right there, the energy you saw throughout, ultimately the set design was a secondary complement to the sonic element that the performers brought.”
LAY THE FOUNDATIONS EARLY
“I’d say I don’t really like to go into projects where there’s no original idea. I try to curate it: if I go into the room and I can tell it’s going to be a room where the idea isn’t that important, and the ego is more important, I back away from those situations. I would say collaboration is key here.”
HAVE A UNITED BUT OPEN VISION
“We are pretty small team, it’s me and my producer as the brains behind all of it. With our collaborators, there’s this cool synergy there. There’s nothing set, and no ’right idea’: whether that comes from an intern, or whether that comes from the producer, the idea is what ultimately wins.”
“I always think my inspirations come from moving around every year as a kid. From when I was a year or two old to when I ran away from home at 16. I wouldn’t say there was any one artist, designer or photographer that has greatly influenced me. Music and travel are where I find inspiration. The internet has changed why we are creative too. It’s maybe to the cringe of every Creative Director in the world when they hear me say this: I don’t find influence going to a museum and looking at art, I find influence travelling to a weird location. That’s where colours and images pop into my head. And really, no source of any foundation will ever become something without music playing a major, major part in it.
I grew up listening to the likes of Aphex twin and Fleetwood Mac. I was classically trained as a pianist but then I would go home and listen to Boards of Canada. I would download music on Napster and wait for four days for it to download. I would download ambient music to help me sleep, and it’s helped to evolve me.”
STICK TO YOUR VALUES
“I never went to school, I was always BMX-ing, and then that led to photography which brought me to New York. I got into weird modeling and worked at American Apparel and helped to open up a bunch of stores in New York. Then I was originally auditioning as an extra on this film and I got offered the lead role in Enter the Void. I thought, I don’t want to do that, I want to make movies, but it was fun going to Tokyo. Then I shot a campaign for Barneys. My guardian angel Barbara then asked me what I wanted to do, and I remember being like ‘I want to do what you do’ – she was creative director – and she was like, ‘oh cool, start tomorrow’. I started shooting all these fashion films for Barneys with Karlie Kloss and all these supermodels and amazing stylists. It gave me this playground to fill up this body of work around.
But I woke up one day and was like, I really don’t want to sell eyelash curlers anymore. This is not progressive enough for me. That was a time when Kanye hit me up and was like, you should come to Alabama in 2010 for his tour. I remember I was writing the treatments for Loreal, threw my pen down and hit up my production company.
It led me to start my own studio, built around the premise of creating work for authentic people and brands. I’m 27, I’m still young I want to experience the joy and beauty of the world. Everyone in the advertisement industry is just super cynical. I grew up in all these different cities and we were never rich. Having been so fully immersed in the fashion industry where there was all this sense of entitlement I was frustrated. I want to create wildness in fashion that applies to everyone’s lives because everyone deserves to be a part of it.”
“You can’t get too comfortable. The ideas that are the most exciting come from places that are the most challenging” – Nate Brown
REMEMBER IT’S BIGGER THAN YOU
“You could learn lessons from Kanye. He has this uncanny ability to put people in the same room together and make people lose the ego to focus on making this really cool. It doesn’t matter if you are a director or if you are a stylist. We’re like glorified sandwich makers. The reality is that regardless of what work you are doing, we are just building these sandwiches, like turkey or chicken. The body of the project is always bigger than the brain behind it.
It doesn’t matter if you are in the room with someone crazy like Jay Z, he just wants to get this idea out and work towards this. It didn’t matter who it is, we are just trying to do the best possible thing.”
ACCEPT THERE’S NEVER GOING TO BE ENOUGH TIME
“Somehow it doesn’t matter if it’s 10 years from now or five months. The timeline is always never enough, but that’s the fun part about it. You can’t get too comfortable. The ideas that are the most exciting come from places that are the most challenging. So having crazy time constraints and having the pressure of never having enough money or resources is ultimately why we are creative. That to me is the most fun: if you have endless funds, endless time and endless of whatever you just don’t know what to do. You come up with some horrible idea that you are second guessing, and it wouldn’t have been true to your creative environment anyway.”
“For me you have to focus on whatever this vision is, whatever this goal is and lose everything else in the process to get to that thing: sleep, friendships, your life. So you ultimately come out with this very humbled mentality. Try to constantly practice humility A lot of young creatives think they’re at a level where they can speak on this broad scale As a creative in any industry; as a musician, an artist, a painter, a poet, you are hyper vulnerable: own your idea, be excited about your idea. Be vulnerable about putting your idea out there and be humble to let your ideas become more than you as a person. The idea’s not your baby: let it evolve and become whatever it needs to become.”
“Whatever the last project is, that’s my proudest moment. I look back at what we did with Dazed and I’m like that’s cool. I get so excited, even when they are tiny little things in a warehouse or massive world tours, I get so hyped. It’s these moments of hyper-stress where you think that you could potentially die, you are so lost in it and you are like, I will actually die, this project is literally going to kill me! Somehow you come out and you think: that was the coolest thing ever.
We did this project with Steve McQueen and Kayne in Paris. He calls me the day before and says ‘I want to do five shows in Paris’. There was a moment when I though it wasn’t possible. Taking over the museum owned by LVMH and putting up seven screens in the auditorium to perform for five days, twenty-four hours before? In Paris too, where it’s impossible to do anything anyways and that happened. I would definitely use that as a benchmark of ‘woah’.”