Everything You Need To Know About The ‘What’s Contemporary Now?’ Podcast

by Eddie Roche

Industry vet Christopher Michael is back with season 4 of his hit podcast, What’s Contemporary Now?. He tells The Daily what’s in store this season! 

What’s the general gist of the podcast?
With fashion having become culture’s greatest Trojan horse, the show explores both the contemporary landscape and modern-day human experience through the lens of different creatives and thought leaders from the industry. Made up of equal parts professional accolades and personal anecdotes, we end up delving into subjects with broad application in the cultural discourse during each episode.

Why is it called What’s Contemporary Now?
We no longer live in a time led by this monolithic type of culture and have seemingly entered an era where things are anything but objective. For that reason, the makings of contemporary culture are quite layered, complex, and in many ways subjective. By probing the minds of those whose work helps shape the current landscape, we’ve found that the easiest way to tap into that fascinating spectrum is by asking this thought-provoking question: “What’s contemporary now?”

You have a background as a booker/manager with models. Refresh us with your professional background.
I moved to New York at the end of 2005 to intern at a small modeling agency and quickly realized how much I loved this industry. Voraciously consuming everything I could to learn as fast as possible and become a bigger part of it, I soon recognized that my interest extended beyond talent management. By 2008, I had begun interviewing various creatives, commissioning and curating a couple of exhibitions for established talent, and had the good fortune to work with names like Claudia Schiffer, Eva Herzigova, and Devon Aoki during those early years. Working with that level of talent allowed me to discuss concepts, approve teams, and engage in elements of the creative process, which only fueled my desire for more. Over the years, I had an incredible time in that space, working with truly spectacular talents like Amber Valletta, Karlie Kloss, Caroline Trentini, Kendall Jenner and several others. Having spent my last years in the agency space as the Chief Creative at The Society before deciding to venture off on my own, in 2022 it felt like the right time to pursue independent work with different brand partners and editorial platforms. The podcast is something that keeps me as engaged as ever and feels incredibly symbiotic with the other projects I work on.

Why did you want to start a podcast?
I’d had such a fantastic journey with What’s Contemporary the first time around and knew that I wanted to bring it back, but it didn’t make sense to do it in the same way. Podcasts are inherently contemporary, and it felt like an agile format that would allow us to engage those whose perspectives felt relevant to the question without too much heavy lifting on the production front. Our producer Shayan Asadi was someone I’d worked with before, and I knew that he was the perfect partner to work with on putting a show like this together. I’m forever grateful that he said yes because he’s 95% of what makes it all possible, and I often find myself wanting to be better if not for any other reason than to at least keep him inspired by what it is we’re doing together.

Who are some of the guests you have coming on this season?
This season is a bit all over the place in the best kind of way. Katie Grand was the first-ever ‘issue’ of What’s Contemporary in 2011, and as one of, if not the most prolific magazine editor with such an impressive history of starting wildly successful titles, we are really excited to have her return on an episode this season. You’ll be hearing from the new wave of creatives like Hypebeast EIC Willa Bennett and Interview’s Dara, but also from the tried and true voices of this industry like Robin Givhan, Pierre Rougier, Suzanne Koller, Emanuele Farneti, Oscar award-winning Shona Heath, and so many others. The spectrum of not just roles played, but even generational perspectives is something we’re really looking forward to sharing.

Katie Grand (Getty Images)

What guests really surprised you this season with their stories?
I’m not sure anyone has had the upbringing or life experiences that Daphne Guinness has, her stories are quite wild and the way she’s metabolized them in her life is truly intriguing. Paloma Elsesser is another guest that one never tires of listening to and I feel like her unbridled humanity is an absolute gift when hearing her success stories and challenges respectively. I was probably the most surprised by Erik Torstensson only because I think I went into that conversation with a certain idea of who he was, and ended up finding him incredibly endearing, transparent and worthy of a masterclass on how to win at life.  That’s not to say I didn’t think highly of him already, he was just very self aware and able to articulate himself in a way that I don’t think everyone can, with such honesty about his life, his success and knowing that iteration and curiosity are fundamental to any good life because nobody is out there waiting for you. We could definitely put that one up behind a paywall.

Daphne Guinness

What makes a good guest?
You need someone who feels comfortable in conversation, especially when knowing it’s being recorded for public consumption. When someone is too controlled in what they’re saying, or you can feel that they’re afraid to be perceived any other way than how they want to be perceived, a conversation can easily become arduous or lackluster. Similarly, like someone uncomfortable in front of a camera, there’s a palpability there. So when you manage to find that connection early on, and get really present, almost in a flow state, the audience can hear that and end up feeling far more engaged. Some great guests are really funny; others are so willing to share such personal anecdotes or speak to things like imposter syndrome that you can’t help but walk away an even greater fan. I always say that most people aren’t inauthentic because they want to be; it’s because it’s surprisingly rare for people to really know themselves in the first place. It’s tired and cliché, but authenticity goes a long way when it comes to podcast guests.

What are some of the most important conversations you’ve noticed the fashion world is talking about?
Fashion is once again trending in culture, evidenced by the influx of new fashion-focused podcasts, documentaries, live events, and more. I can only speak to the conversations we have on this show because I think we approach it a little differently, perhaps less data or trend-driven. Obviously, we often end up discussing topics like sustainability, mental health, the waxing and waning phases of diversity, or the fast-growing footprint of AI. But we also delve into the human experience side of things, which feels equally important. Whether you’re a fan of fashion or participating in it professionally, it can be a paradoxical journey filled with creativity, escapism, empowerment, and all the elements that make us dream, but it can also often feel like a fickle realm where we encounter complex characters driven by blind ambition, and ideas that may seem aspirational but could potentially alienate others. There’s an honesty in some of these conversations today, that wasn’t always there, or at least not as often in years past. People value the opportunity to have those conversations as much as they do having the chance to listen to them.

Who are some of the names in fashion you’d like to have on the podcast in the future?
I feel like the first names that come to mind with a question like this are always the ones that are no longer with us. To this day, one of my favorite experiences as an interviewer was going to Franca Sozzani’s home in Paris and having the chance to interview her in her living room. I’d love to sit down with her again.  I’ve still not had the chance to interview Anna Wintour, so I’ll just keep that one on the list until the opportunity arises! I know Steven doesn’t do interviews, but a conversation with Meisel would be an absolute dream. I would also love to talk to Pharrell and Martin Margiela.

Where can listeners find the new season?
Anywhere you listen to your podcasts! I think most of our listeners come through Spotify and apple podcasts, but Shayan has us everywhere.

Click HERE to check out the season 4 trailer!

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