Louis Vuitton or Vouis Luitton?
Fashion meets activism! The London photographer Immo Klink combines fashion photography with a critique of capitalism and masters this balancing act with authentic photographs that play with commercial imagery. In the past, Klink has photographed for Levi's, Benetton and The New Yorker, among others. In our Beauty Issue we show his photo series Mayday at Mayfair, which documents how on May 1, 2019, London's luxury boutiques barricaded their shop windows because of announced riots by opponents of capitalism. A conversation about consumerism, fashion, and beauty.
"A beautiful moment, full of irony."
You photographed the barricaded boutiques of luxury labels in a noble London district on May 1? Why?
When I made the photos in 2002 the officially declared battle zone by opponents of global capitalism was the luxury district Mayfair, one of the most expensive areas in London, when not the world. The moment I captured was beautiful: no cars on the street, hardly a passerby, the shops were barricaded…
… as if the brands had censored themselves!
You couldn’t see any luxury products in the display windows anymore, only the brand names. During my masters studies in trademark law and in my commercial jobs as well, I have increasingly noticed— since around the millennium—that the clientele of the noble brands are no longer interested in the quality seal wares of the brand, rather just the brand. They want to buy the image of the label and transfer it to themselves. Naturally, the companies know this and cater to this need. The system of consumerism and advertising lives off this image transfer. A beautiful irony manifested on this day. It revealed a truth.
The labels you depict represent luxury, opulence, exclusivity. Why do we spend money on this?
There is nothing wrong with the desire for luxury; it has always been a driving force behind progress, it sparks innovation and the wildest fantasies. But what is luxury? We should think about that! Something material, time for reflection, or a day with my sons in nature?
„Beauty has become all too rare.“
Why does fashion have such a close connection with luxury?
That doesn’t have to be the case. I was socialized in the 90s. There was a totally different vibe in the scene. Fashion designers still organized crazy actions with some skinheads. Fashion came from the streets and also had a political message. Today a big part of the sector is completely commercialized.
And when is fashion good in your eyes?
It works when it points its feelers to the outside world. The fashion business resides somewhere between art and the media sector. In the arts there is always this heavy, overarching intellectual dimension. In the media everything has to fit into one message. With fashion, when it is really good, there is this moment when a designer senses something in the air. Fashion can access that, and that’s what I find interesting.
What is beauty for you?
Beauty has become all too rare. For me, beauty is not tied to luxury. Beauty comes from the meaning. If a luxury label manages to transport a feeling and appeal to people in this way, then it is indeed beautiful. Take Alexander McQueen, for example. His collections were controversial, sometimes borderline terrifying, but they touched us. He sensed the dark and ominous in the world, he sensed the future. If someone can put the spirit of our time in a nutshell, even when it is fear, if someone can convey that and confront me on an emotional level, then that is beauty for me.